Jason Momoa, Auli'i Cravalho, Cliff Curtis, And 16 Other Polynesian Actors Who Are Taking Over Hollywood

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!

Moana smiling
Moana smiling

Disney

So here are 19 Polynesian actors making big moves in Hollywood:

1.Jason Momoa

Close-up of Jason
Mike Marsland / WireImage / Getty Images

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.

Jason in chest tattoos
Jasin Boland / Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

2.KJ Apa

Close-up of KJ
Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

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.

As Archie Andrews in Riverdale
The CW Network / Courtesy Everett Collection

3.Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

Dwayne smiling
Kevin Winter / Getty Images

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!

Dwayne as a superhero
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

4.Taika Waititi

Close-up of Taika in a tie
Axelle / FilmMagic / Getty Images

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.

Taika in What We Do in the Shadows
Unison / Paladin

5.Auli'i Cravalho

Close-up of Auli'i
Amy Sussman / WireImage / Getty Images

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!

Auli'i in Darby and the Dead
Marcos Cruz / Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection

6.Cliff Curtis

Close-up of Cliff
Dominik Magdziak / Getty Images

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.

Cliff in Avatar
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

7.Jemaine Clement

Close-up of Jemaine
Lisa O'Connor / AFP via Getty Images

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.

Jemaine in What We Do in the Shadows
Russ Martin / FX / Courtesy Everett Collection

8.Rose Matafeo

Close-up of Rose
Mike Marsland / WireImage / Getty Images

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.

Rose holding a phone to her ear
HBO

9.Cooper Andrews

Close-up of Cooper
Chris Delmas / AFP via Getty Images

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.

Cooper sitting at a desk
Tina Rowden / AMC / Courtesy Everett Collection

10.Alex Aiono

Close-up of Alex
Steve Granitz / FilmMagic / Getty Images

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.

Alex in Finding Ohana
Jennifer Rose Clasen / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

11.Kelly Hu

Close-up of Kelly
Mark Von Holden / Variety via Getty Images

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.

Kelly in The Vampire Diaries
The CW

12.Keisha Castle-Hughes

Close-up of Keisha
Jason Laveris / FilmMagic / Getty Images

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.

Keisha in FBI: Most Wanted
CBS Photo Archive / CBS via Getty Images

13.Alex Tarrant

Close-up of Alex
Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images

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.

Alex in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Amazon Prime

14.Kaliko Kauahi

Close-up of Kaliko smiling
Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

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.

Kaliko in Superstore
Bill Inoshita / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

15.Uli Latukefu

Close-up of Uli smiling
Don Arnold / WireImage / Getty Images

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.

Uli in Young Rock
NBC

16.Mainei Kinimaka

Close-up of Mainei
Amy Sussman / The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images

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.

Mainei in Kapō
Arthouse of Aurelius / Via youtube.com

17.Stacey Leilua

Close-up of Stacey smiling
Mark Taylor / NBC / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

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.

Close-up of Stacey  with a necklace and floral neck adornment
Katherine Bomboy / NBC via Getty Images

18.John Tui

Close-up of John
Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images

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.

John in Young Rock
Mark Taylor / NBC / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

19.And finally: Temuera Morrison

Close-up of Temuera
Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images

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!

Temuera in The Book of Boba Fett
Disney

Who's your favorite Polynesian actor? Any that I missed? LMK in the comments below!