You’ve heard the advice, “Write what you know?” Well, 16-year-old Moana star Auli’i Cravalho is acting what she knows in her feature film debut. The Hawaiian born singer and actress voices the title character in Disney’s latest animated adventure, which follows the seafaring exploits of a Polynesian chieftain’s headstrong daughter as she embarks on a grand quest alongside rambunctious demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson).
No, Cravalho hasn’t embarked on any long boat trips with heavenly beings. But, as she told Yahoo Movies when she dropped by our New York studios earlier this fall, she sees numerous similarities between herself and Moana. (Watch the video above.) “She grows up on an island, and I grew up on an island. We both love our people and the ocean,” she said. “I was able to tell [the story] like I would if I were her.”
Cravalho was a high school freshman when she auditioned for the part of Moana and soon found herself going from the classroom to the recording booth where she received a crash course in Voice Acting 101. “When you’re recording something like this, you say a line 10, 20 or 70 times,” she said. “Everything makes a difference; I just had to breath into it and realize that it’s okay to say it more than once.”