AP – Auli’i Cravalho’s life changed forever at age 14 when she was cast as the voice of Disney’s Moana.
The Hawaiian native loved singing and acting, but they were just hobbies to her. So were horseback riding, swimming and microbiology, for that matter. A career in Hollywood seemed implausible at best.
“But life decided to surprise me,” said Cravalho, who went from obscurity to performing at the Oscars in just a few months.
Now at 19, Cravalho is checking off another milestone: Her first live-action film, All Together Now, is being released on Netflix today. And once again, she’s in the lead.
Based on Matthew Quick’s novel Sorta Like a Rock Star, the film from director Brett Haley finds Cravalho playing a very different kind of character from the adventurous Polynesian princess. Amber is a high school student with a to-die-for voice, an unflappable optimism and a dream of going to Carnegie Mellon. She also happens to be living in a school bus with her alcoholic mother.
“This felt like the next step,” she said. “I’m a little older and I love the challenge of showing these tougher emotions and telling these deeper stories.”
She’d actually auditioned for Hayley before. She didn’t get that part, but he promised he’d remember her.
“I was like, sure, OK, I’m never going to hear from this guy again,” she laughed. And then Amber Appleton came along.
“I really related to Amber. I genuinely understood her optimism,” she said. “I am an optimist almost to a fault myself. I also have to kind of get real and be like, ‘Oh, wait, I can reach out and ask for help’.”
Cravalho had already had some on-camera experience, including in the short-lived television show Rise, which was cancelled after one season. But she was nervous about a feature film and acting opposite people like Carol Burnett.
Thankfully, she had an unusually empathetic and supportive director in Haley, who helped her feel comfortable and gave her space to play around with her character and lines. And he’s excited for audiences to see her in a more dramatic role.