Interview with Auli’i Cravalho from MOANA
While I was out in a LA a few months ago I got the chance to interview some very inspiring people. You may remember my interview with Wes Bentley and don’t forget to check out my interviews with Bryce Dallas Howard and Oakes Fegley & Oona Laurence. Not only did I get to check out Pete’s Dragon, but I got a first look at Moana and got the chance to sit down with the star of the movie, Auli’i Cravalho.
She was seriously the absolute sweetest! Read below her Q&A, she will win you over in no time. 😉
Was this your first red carpet experience and how do you think it’s going to be at the premiere in November?
Auli’i: That was my first red carpet. I’ve heard (the November premiere) is going to be with music and dancers. It was really interesting to see how it all worked and how people know my name. They were saying it correctly too. It’s an interesting (name): Auli’i. They had a hard time, but they were all saying it in synch to get me to turn to them. It was good.
Photo credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney
When they told you that you received the part, you called your mom. Was the next person that you wanted to tell?
Auli’i: It was happening during summer school, so I had taken a two hour break. I was going to a dentist appointment or something. I went back to school and I remember I had a strawberry smoothie before that. And so they (said) “Didn’t you go to a dentist appointment?” I was like did I say dentist I meant doctor. So I wanted to tell all my friends, but I didn’t tell anyone.
Puanani: No (we) couldn’t. We were sworn to secrecy.
Auli’i: We were sworn (to secrecy) July, August, September, and October… A little over three months.
Puanani: She’d come home at night and we’d be, you know, hugging. She’s like, “Mommy! I’m Moana! I’m like, “Yeah, you sure are sweetie.”
Photo credit: Jana Seitzer / MerlotMommy.com
How has it been since you’ve been able to tell people?
Auli’i: It’s been really good. Everyone is really supportive of it. I think we got banana bread the first week or so when everyone found out. (She laughs.) Aside from that, it’s been pretty normal. My friends are normal.
Puanani: Keeping it real, I think it’s about raising a well-balanced person.
Did you do all of your voice over work alone in a booth or did you work with other people?
Auli’i: I met Dwayne (Johnson) and then a few weeks ago I met Rachel House who plays Gramma Tala… And Temuera Morrison who played my dad. It was interesting because I’ve gotten so used to the voices, but to see like their faces with it and to (then) kind of match the personality… For instance, the person who plays Gramma Tala, Rachel House… That isn’t her actual voice. She totally commits to the character. She’s just a really sweet, kind woman who doesn’t sound like Gramma Tala. (She) still embodies the character which was interesting. And Temuera Morrison has an amazing accent. It was interesting to meet him because he’s an actual father. So I got to meet his daughter as well. It was really nice to see him as a dad. I got to envision him more so as a dad.
What was it like to meet “The Rock”?
Auli’i: He was very nice and very professional. It was interesting because this whole process of recording without meeting someone was something that I was not prepared to do. I assumed that we would be in the same booth. He is very focused, which is interesting because he has so many different jobs throughout the day. While we were on the content shoot, he was of course talking to other people, trying to work out flights and all that stuff. How dedicated he can be to one thing and then convert his attention to another… And he loves the character Maui so much because he’s Polynesian just like I am. So to see that he’s so committed to the character made it almost overwhelming. The amount of emotion that I know I put into it… I know that he puts the same amount.
How do you feel about having your culture embodied into a Disney princess?
Auli’i: Moana is definitely a Disney character which is something that I totally love. She’s really awesome. She really embodies it because as someone who has been born and raised on the island of Hawaii, the Big Island… I love my culture. I go to an all Hawaiian school where you have to be Hawaiian to be admitted. I speak the foreign language as well. To have such a beautiful young teen who shows that it’s okay to go on a journey to find yourself… It’s wonderful. That message is universal to everyone. Wayfinding isn’t just something they made up for animation purposes. It was truly almost lost in the Polynesian culture, which is something that not a lot of people know. So the fact that it’s being shined in such a positive light and the fact that there is now a resurgence of navigation and wayfinding in real day-to-day life… It’s so important.
What would you say has been your biggest lesson learned about yourself while filming this film?
Auli’i: Family, definitely. When I first got the role, there was no one that I could tell. We would literally have those conversations at night and there was no one else that I felt like I had to tell. It’s just been my mom and I for three years or so. I love being able to not have to feel like I have to share everything with the whole world. I kind of just like having just us. I love my family. Moana kind of shares that. She loves her people. I think a lot of people say when you go to Hawaii, you’ll notice the ambience and you’ll notice everyone is friendly because we all kind of think for each other. That’s something that I had to get used to here, because it’s not like that. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but I’m not sure it can be taken any other way. It’s interesting. Everyone is for themselves here, which is great. If, if you succeed: good for you. But for everyone that I’ve ever met in Hawaii… It’s like you made it and you made it for us. And I just feel so proud of that.
With this being your first film, what’s been the most amazing thing and the strangest thing?
Auli’i: This being the first film, having to record a line ten times in a row and then (doing) that like three or four more times. There’s so many different ways you can say it. You add a lilt to the end of it or you say in a question. All of that changes the meaning and the drive behind it. To get that one perfect take took forever. It was worth it. Then, I got to meet the animators which was something that not many voice actresses or actors get to do. The animators don’t usually get to see them either. They just hear the voice and then work, but I got to (help) animate some of it. I did a walk like the Egyptian pose like, totally awkward. (She laughs.) …Totally wrong proportions; her neck was four heads tall, but it was so much fun. They put in so much work. They work overtime and they have overtime dinners practically every night of the week. They work on weekends. And the fact that they have families and they spend so much time on such an important film… We bonded in a way that I don’t think either one of us really expected.
What actually inspired you to audition? Have you had any previous experience?
Auli’i: I didn’t initially audition for it. My friends and I put together an audition to be the entertainment for a nonprofit event on the island. We put together a bunch of acapella songs. My friend beat boxed and we had a really fun experience. We sent it out and didn’t get in. It was devastating for a second. But, what happened was the casting director for Disney saw that audition through an intricate web. It just kind of arose. When she emailed mom and I to ask if I wanted to audition, it was fantastic. The rest is kind of history.
Is this something you have always wanted to do? Did you want to go into this kind of business?
Auli’i: I think always. I would put on fashion shows in the middle of the hallway because we had a black carpet. It didn’t matter if it was red or whatever, but it was my carpet. I credit my singing voice to my mom because she didn’t believe in blankies (when I was a baby).
Puanani: I figured, let her cry it out.
Auli’i: I developed wonderful lungs. I think what I always knew was that it’s a hard industry to get into. As of right now, I love this so much and I would love to pursue a career in this. But, at the same time, I started looking into either a law career. I’m (also) really into science, like cellular molecular biology. I would love to pursue this, but at the same time I’m super glad that I thought of the future and what might or may not happen. I study no matter what.
What were your thoughts when you read the script?
Auli’i: I didn’t really understand that this was a Polynesian film until after I read the script. I was like, “That’s not a Hawaiian word. I know that’s not a Hawaiian word. That sounds Samoan.” I did research on it and sure enough because Hawaii is one of the more newer island chains, they pulled from more of an ancient background which is great. If they’re making the story line thousands of years earlier, Hawaii would not have been created. So the fact that they’ve done that research is amazing. When I read the script, I was just surprised by how much research they did. When I heard of the foreign language, the canoes and stuff like that… I envisioned it. It was there. If you’ve ever read a script, it’s not just line after line after line. It’s a line, then they say, “said with more emotion”. They really set up the scenes so I was able to envision it. And the format that they use (and) the way the ocean is described as a character was ingenious.
As Polynesians, we believe that everything is connected. So from Malta to Makai, from the ocean to the sea… we respect that. We use everything. So if we take care of the land or we take care of the ocean, then it’ll take care of us. The script really held that in there. I remember that all I could think of is, “whoever gets this is going to do it such great justice. They have no choice because it’s an awesome script.”
For mom, what are your thoughts of your daughter doing this type of thing?
Puanani: I’ll just say this: Auli’i is really great. She’s focused on academics and that’s just really important. That’s something that she’s very good about. And then (there) is performing arts: singing and acting. Whether or not it’s in church or the back yard or part of school… (It) was something that she did for fun. To kind of take a break off of the honors and the A-P classes and some of those things, this is what she did for her that fed the soul. The fact that this came along… I didn’t raise her in this way. I didn’t take her to the auditions. We didn’t do all of these kind of things where some are groomed from a young age. This was just something that she did for fun. If we could fit it into the schedule and if we could go ahead and assure all the important academic classes were taken care of, then absolutely! Fit in some of that fun stuff! I think that’s very important. So, when this came along and she had this opportunity, a part of me was just afraid because we’re going into an area that I don’t know.
This opportunity was just so amazing and it truly is. We are just outside of what my knowledge and understanding is. I’m thrilled and I’m honored. I’m happy for her. I know my child; I know every movement, the hair, the twist, the brow and everything. What it says to me is that she truly is enjoying this. And that makes it okay. To be in the hands of, of Disney… we’re in good hands. I’m doing my mommy part and I’m staying close with her because I need to be on this journey with her. She’s happy and she’s thriving. We’re in good hands.
Do you have a favorite Disney movie?
Auli’i: Mulan is my favorite. I said that on a panel and the filmmakers were right next to me. They were like, “You couldn’t have said something we created?” (She laughs.) She’s awesome and I think what really resonated was that she always wants to honor her family. She totally broke the gender norm of going to war and doing what she felt was necessary. That totally resonated with me.
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