‘Moana’ Star Auli’i Cravalho Explains Why It’s ‘Really Important’ for Her to Not Be in Live-Action Version | Video

“I exist in these beautiful AAPI spaces … and I am one of the few Pacific Islanders,” the actress tells TheWrap

With a live-action version of Disney’s “Moana” on the horizon, the original film’s star Auli’i Cravalho has no regrets about not returning to reprise the role. In fact, the actress admits that it still “feels really important” to her that she not be in it.

When Cravalho’s co-star Dwayne Johnson revealed back in April that not only was a live-action version of the 2016 animation in the works, but that he’d be returning to star as Maui, the question that immediately followed was whether Cravalho would be starring alongside him. But, in a video post to her Instagram a few weeks later, Cravalho confirmed she would only be executive producing the film.

Speaking to TheWrap ahead of “Mean Girls,” in which she stars as Janis ‘Imi’ike — the character’s last name changed to reflect her own heritage — Cravalho explained that she is determined to make space for more Pacific Islanders in Hollywood, and this is just the first step.

“It feels really important to me to pass the baton to the next young woman of Pacific Island descent, and I say that with my whole chest,” Cravalho said. “I have been invited, and I exist in these beautiful AAPI spaces, Asian American Pacific Islander, and I am one of the few Pacific Islanders. And I’ll say it again, I am one of the few Pacific Islanders. And our stories are so important to be told.”

The actress lamented that the Pacific Islands, specifically her home state of Hawaii, aren’t typically represented well or accurately, and as a result, neither are the people.

“We are used. And I want to tell our own stories. I want to be behind the camera as much as I am in front of it,” Cravalho explained. “When I talk about representation, I want to see the same thing happening in writers rooms. I want to see the same thing happening with directors. And Taika Waititi talks about this as well, I wanna see showrunners who are also of indigenous descent telling their own stories.”

She continued, “And if it has to start with me — I’m 23, but if it starts with me, so be it. I want that door to swing wide open, and I cannot wait to meet the next Moana.”

Disney’s live-action “Moana” is currently set to open on June 27, 2025, with Thomas Kail (“Hamilton”) directing, making his feature film debut. The movie will be produced by Johnson, Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia via their Seven Bucks Productions and Beau Flynn via Flynn Picture Co. Scott Sheldon of Flynn Picture Co. will also executive produce alongside Cravalho.

Watch TheWrap’s complete interview with Auli’i Cravalho here.

“Mean Girls” hits theaters on January 12, 2024.

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