While Hollywood still has a long way to go in terms of diversity, recent years have seen more and more Polynesian actors in major roles. And as a Samoan woman, I love to see it!
So here are 19 Polynesian actors making big moves in Hollywood:
Born in Hawaiʻi, Jason is Native Hawaiian on his father's side and German, Irish, and Pawnee on his mother's. After the world fell in love with him in Game of Thrones, he went on to star in Frontier, See, and the Aquaman movies. In May, we'll get to see him join the Fast and Furious franchise in Fast X. And I cannot wait for his upcoming show, Chief of War.
The New Zealand–born actor is of Samoan and European heritage, and he received his matai (chief) title last year. He became a household name by playing Archie Andrews on Riverdale, but you can also find him in The Hate U Give and I Still Believe. And did you know that KJ is a talented musician? In 2021, he released an indie folk-rock album called Clocks.
3.Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Dwayne is Samoan on his mother's side and Black on his father's. After gaining fame as a WWE wrestler, he became the Hollywood star we know and love today. He's been in everything from the Fast and Furious franchise to Moana to the Jumanji movies. And last year, he became the first Samoan to play a superhero with Black Adam!
Born in New Zealand, Taika is Māori on his father's side and Russian Jewish on his mother's. Is there anything this man can't do? He wrote, directed, and starred in both What We Do in the Shadows and Jojo Rabbit, for which he became the first Māori filmmaker to win an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. He directed several of Marvel's Thor movies and an episode of The Mandalorian. Currently, he writes for the show he co-created, Reservation Dogs. And his film Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a masterpiece! Do yourself a favor and watch it if you're ever in need of a laugh.
Born in Hawaiʻi, Auli'i is of Native Hawaiian, Puerto Rican, Portuguese, Chinese, and Irish heritage. After making her acting debut as the voice of Moana, Auli'i returned to Disney as Ariel in ABC's live-action concert rendition of The Little Mermaid. Since then, she's starred in the drama film All Together Now and teen comedy show Darby and the Dead. And she'll be playing Janis in the upcoming Mean Girls movie musical!
The Māori actor is known for powerful New Zealand films like Whale Rider and The Dark Horse, as well as his long Hollywood career. He's been in tons of stuff, including Live Free or Die Hard, Fear the Walking Dead, and Hobbs & Shaw. Most recently, he played Tonowari, the chief of the Metkayina clan, in Avatar: The Way of Water.
The New Zealand–born actor is of Māori and European descent. He was sooo funny in Flight of the Conchords! Jemaine joined Taika Waititi as an actor, writer, and director in What We Do in the Shadows. He's done tons of voice work for animated movies, including Despicable Me, Rio, Moana, and The Lego Batman Movie. He's also been in hits like Men in Black 3 and Avatar: The Way of Water.
Born in New Zealand, Rose is Samoan on her father's side and Croatian and Scottish on her mother's. This woman can do it all — she's an actor, writer, comedian, director, and podcast host. You can find her stand-up special, Horndog, and comedy series, Starstruck, on HBO Max.
On his father's side, the actor is Samoan, and on his mother's, he's Hungarian Jewish. Best known for playing Jerry on The Walking Dead, Cooper was also in Halt and Catch Fire and the Shazam movies.
Alex is Samoan and Māori on his father's side and white on his mother's. After gaining a massive following on YouTube for his music, he landed a starring role in Finding Ohana. He plays Walter in Doogie Kameāloha, M.D. and Alex in Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin.
Born in Hawaiʻi, Kelly is of Native Hawaiian, Chinese, and English heritage. After winning Miss Teen USA 1985 and Miss Hawaii USA 1993, she landed roles in The Scorpion King and the X-Men movie X-2. She's been in teen shows like The Vampire Diaries and The 100, and she voiced Stacy in Phineas and Ferb. Currently, she plays Admiral Ozawa in The Orville.
Born in Australia and raised in New Zealand, the actor is Māori on her mother's side and white on her father's. I absolutely LOVED her in Whale Rider (one of my all-time favorite movies). Since then, she's been in The Nativity Story, Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, and Game of Thrones. Currently, she's playing Hana in FBI: Most Wanted.
The New Zealand–born actor is of Māori, Samoan, and Niuean heritage. Alex had leading roles in When We Go to War, Shortland Street, and Night Raiders. Currently, he plays Kai in NCIS: Hawaiʻi and Valandil in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
Born in Hawaiʻi, the actor is of Native Hawaiian and Japanese heritage. You probably know her as Sandra in Superstore, but she's also appeared in Parks and Recreation, The Big Bang Theory, and Raven's Home.
Born in Australia, the actor is Tongan. He gained fame by playing Dwayne Johnson in Young Rock, but he was also great in Marco Polo and Black Adam.
Born in Hawaiʻi, the Native Hawaiian actor was a famous surfer before turning to acting. This year, she was in See, The Last Manhunt, and Kapō. Mainei recently announced that she joined the cast of Jason Momoa's upcoming show, Chief of War.
Born in New Zealand, the actor is of Samoan, Māori, and European descent. She started out in theater and produced a Pacific Islander musical before doing shows in New York City. For the last several years, she's played Ata Johnson (Dwayne Johnson's mom) in Young Rock.
The Tongan actor was born in New Zealand. After a role in Sione's Wedding (my fave Pacific Islander comedy!), he appeared in the final Hobbit movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Hobbs & Shaw. Currently, he plays Afa Anoa'i in Young Rock.
19.And finally: Temuera Morrison
Born in New Zealand, the actor is of Māori, Scottish, and Irish heritage. He's been in tons of stuff, like Star Wars films, Moana, and the Aquaman movies. After appearing in The Mandalorian, he even got his own show, The Book of Boba Fett!
Who's your favorite Polynesian actor? Any that I missed? LMK in the comments below!