WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Hulu’s new movie “Crush”
Trying to figure out if you have real feelings for your childhood crush or her sister, can be hard. But such is the situation in Hulu’s new rom-com “Crush.” And for Auli’Cravalho, who stars as half — or rather, one third — of that love story, having queer writers was a huge factor in telling that story authentically.
“Having queer writers, and a director, just allowed us to have this film that was so vibrant and funny,” Cravalho told TheWrap. “Like, to be able to also tease queerness you know? It’s funny, and it’s okay! Because we’re teasing ourselves, you know what I mean?”
Directed by Sammi Cohen, and written by Casey Rackham and Kirsten King, “Crush” follows Paige (Rowan Blanchard) as she tries to figure out what the happiest moment in her life up to this point has been, so she can immortalize it for her college art school application. She thinks maybe it’s her crush on Gabriella Campos (Isabella Ferreira), and the moment she fell for her in grade school.
The problem is, Paige is looking at suspension because her school administrators suspect her of being KingPun, an artist who graffitis school grounds with clever pun murals. So, in an effort to save her future, Paige offers to join the track team, so she can prove that she’s not off tagging walls, and as a bonus, she can spend time with Gabby.
But Gabby’s sister AJ (Cravalho) is also on the team, and ends up being the one tasked with getting Paige up to snuff. Naturally, both girls are a bit put out by the arrangement, but they make it work — and slowly fall for each other in the process.
For Cravalho, the project was something she was immediately attracted to, thanks to the “intellectual” — and at times self-deprecating — writing. So, we broke it all down with the actress.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length. You can watch the full interview in the video above.
“Crush” feels like an easy yes. Rowan Blanchard is your love interest, Megan Mullally is, if all goes well, your future mother-in-law, Isabella Ferreira is your sister — how fast do you say yes to something like this?
Cravalho: I read the script, and I thought that it was just so beautiful to have a film centered around LGBTQ characters, but not have the film itself centered around a coming out story, you know? It was so full and vibrant and funny that I said yes pretty, pretty darn quick.
Yes, like you said, it’s not a coming out story. These girls are both fully out and fully comfortable with themselves, minus typical teenage stuff. It’s a love story. So what kind of conversations happened in the making of this? Because that feels very deliberate.
Yeah! Well, it was really wonderful working with our director Sammi Cohen, and our writers Casey Rackham and Kirsten King, because they’re also queer. So having queer writers and a director just allowed us to have this film that was so vibrant and funny. Like, to be able to also tease queerness you know? It’s funny, and it’s okay! Because we’re teasing ourselves, you know what I mean?”
And I think that’s another part of it that’s really great, is Gen Z humor is so on the nose and on point. And to have worked with such an incredible cast, like you said, it’s Rowan Blanchard, Isabella Ferreira, Teala Dunn, Rico Paris, Addie Weyrich, with Aasif Mandvi, Michelle Buteau and Meghan Mullally. Like, we’re stacked.
You are. So in this movie, you guys are track stars. Is there any point when you were maybe like “Listen, running is hard. Could we make them swimmers or something a little easier?” Because that would’ve been my big complaint.
(Laughs) I would have loved that. Listen, Moana in me would have loved the swimming aspect. I appreciate that. I am not a runner. I’m not a runner. So I practiced and I like…ran, you know. It wasn’t any more fun in the pre-production of it than it was on the day. And also, running on a track is hard because we had like spikes in our shoes. And oh my gosh, my calves were so sore.
We had a lovely coach, and he was like ‘Y’all kids better ice your legs!’ and I didn’t. And I came back the next day, he’s like, ‘Did you ice your legs?’ And I was like, ‘No, I didn’t have time.’ He’s like ‘Kids! Kids don’t listen to me and I don’t understand’ and I was like, oh, he’s a real coach. This is a real coach who will call you out.
I also learned how to skateboard for this and I fell a lot. So like, the answer is everything hurt. (laughs).
You are also KingPun in this. Were any of those puns actually yours? If you’re secretly a pun master Auli’i, I want to know.
No, I did not come up with any, however I do love a pun. I have a tattoo [on my finger] that says “OW.” One, because it hurt when I got it. But then also because Auli’i, and then if I go this way, then it’s “MO”, short for Moana. And for my next tattoo, I want to get a little — you know the spice thyme? I want to get it on my ribs, so that’ll have “thyme on my side.”
OK, so I don’t believe you. Some of those puns in the movie were yours and you can take it to your grave, that’s fine. But with that joke, you’re never going to convince me that some of them weren’t yours.
KingPun was mine. I was meant to play KingPun.
Absolutely. Well, even if the puns aren’t yours, you do get to play with your humor a lot in “Crush.” Some of the banter between you and Rowan had me genuinely laughing out loud. How was it playing opposite of her?
Having comedic timing is, I feel like something you’re blessed with or you’re not. And luckily it was very easy to play off one another. Our script was also so rich, I think it was because we had writers who were queer and who were interested in playing with that aspect of like, teasing, you know what I mean? And that’s kind of, I feel like, a rom com trope in itself, where it’s not quite enemies to lovers, but it’s like, the little nags here or there. It’s smart. It’s smart banter back and forth, that’s what it is. So that intellectual side, I think, played really well between AJ and Paige.
I’m glad you mention tropes because there are a lot of tropes in “Crush” that aren’t in your face tropes. Like, it’s kind of enemies to lovers, but not. And then you’ve got your track meet where it’s like, “Oh no, there’s only one bed in this hotel room.” You’ve got a couple of them in there. Do you personally have a favorite rom-com trope or a movie trope in general?
I do, I do love the witty banter. Like, that’s hot. When you have that intellectual connection? I really like that. [Also] yeah, why I didn’t just room with my sister? I-D-K. I don’t know about that one. (laughs)
It would not have served the purposes of a love story. That is why you didn’t room with your sister.
Although, if you had roomed with your sister, you could have had like the sneaking into each other’s rooms at night. Listen, there’s a lot of ways that it could have gone. I feel like this was a winner no matter what was written, but there’s a lot of ways it could have gone.
We would have had the queer love story no matter what!
“Crush” is now streaming on Hulu.