For someone who’s only been acting professionally for four years, Auli’i Cravalho has quite a lot to brag about. She kicked off her career with a titular role as the voice of Disney’s Moana (or Vaiana in some European countries). As the first Polynesian Disney princess, the blockbuster saw her Cravalho acting and singing alongside industry heavyweights like Dwayne Johnson and Lin Manuel Miranda. Since then, her list of roles — and accolades — has only gotten longer, including a starring role on NBC’s Rise and a slew of awards for her performance in Moana. As she recovers from belting her heart out as Ariel in The Little Mermaid Live!, Schön! spoke with the up-and-coming actress about her career to date and her film debut, All Together Now, currently streaming on Netflix.
Hey Auli’i! We’re excited to be talking to you today. To start things off, what’s been your number one quarantine activity?
I’ve been trying out new recipes! I’m living on my own and haven’t had to food shop or cook for myself before. So far, I’ve made a killer combo of homemade banana bread with fresh whipped butter. Heaven.
Sounds amazing. So let’s move on to talking about All Together Now. After reading the script for the first time, what did you like most about the film?
I really loved that from the get-go, this script felt tangible and real, and still had so much heart. Our cast was written to be diverse and inclusive. The topics of alcoholism and childhood homelessness aren’t shied [away] from. It truly speaks to our director Brett Haley’s vision of what a “teen movie” can be.
Do you see yourself in Amber?
I absolutely see myself in Amber. She is an intense optimist. She’s outgoing, is always there for a friend, works hard in both school and multiple jobs… Wherever I didn’t quite see myself, I certainly aspired to be more like her. Growing up in a single-parent household really drove our likeness home for me. My mum worked her ass off to take care of me; I knew the feeling of “us against the world.”
What was your biggest challenge when making All Together Now?
I worked on All Together Now whilst preparing and performing for ABC’s The Little Mermaid Live! Easily the most chaotically beautiful two months of my life. Being vulnerable on camera during the day, and then coming home to belt out Disney music for a couple more hours definitely tempered my stamina.
Going behind the scenes, what was your favourite moment from filming All Together Now?
Oooh. Our director Brett Haley rewrote scenes on the day and allowed his actors to change lines if it better fit the characters. Which, while not common, was incredibly helpful in keeping the tone of truth through our film. The scene in the Westfalia between Ty and Amber, just before the variety show, is one of my favourite moments on set because we truly played with the material we had. After many discussions and takes, we ended up with something teary, hopeful, and just right.
So why should our readers stream All Together Now on Netflix right now?
Life isn’t meant to be walked alone. Our film is a great reminder that when the weight of the world is on your shoulders, your chosen family will help you through it. Ask for help when you need it, and accept when it’s given.
You’re also going to be in Amazon’s The Power. What can you tell us about your role in that?
Yes! I’m so excited about this project! Based on Naomi Alderman’s novel of the same name, The Power explores a world where young women suddenly have the ability to electrocute people at will. It’s an interesting look into the shifting power dynamics of when women have a significant genetic upper hand.
How deep are you into production with The Power? If “not at all,” what are you looking forward to most about the project?
We began wardrobe fittings and hair and makeup tests in January… and then got halted by a global pandemic. My heart gets gooey just thinking about being on set again. I can’t wait to finally work with my amazing cast!
Well, we’re all excited. Moving on, you’ve been a part of several watershed moments in Polynesian representation. What does being a part of the conversation about representation mean to you?
Representation is key in telling stories that resonate. I was blessed in my casting of Moana, and I knew from the very beginning the importance of having a Native Hawaiian play a Polynesian heroine. Two years after the original release of Moana, I was able to work with Disney and the University of Hawaii to re-record the film in ‘Olelo Hawai’i, the Hawaiian Language. Moana is now being used for educational purposes across the state in the revitalisation of the Hawaiian Language. Representation absolutely matters.
What’s the biggest personal change you’ve made in the last year?
I’ve gotten better at listening. Actually listening — not just listening to respond. It’s made me more patient and calm. Thank God.
What are you excited about right now?
I feel like I’m growing, both personally and professionally. All Together Now is my first live-action film, and I am so very proud of what we’ve created. I’m excited to continue portraying strong complex women and learning from them too.
All Together Now is currently streaming on Netflix.
This Schön! online exclusive has been produced by