Auli'i Cravalho Has a Message for Hollywood About BIPOC Representation Onscreen
Auli'l Cravalho's new movie, the Netflix coming-of-age drama All Together Now, features a cast filled with all-star BIPOC talent, from One Day at a Time's Justina Machado to Claws' Judy Reyes to, of course, Cravalho herself. It's a rare sight for Hollywood; according to IndieWire, just 34% of 2019's top 100 movies featured a lead or co-lead of color. Speaking to HelloGiggles, Cravalho says she hopes that when the movie industry comes back in full force post-pandemic, representative stories like All Together Now will be a lot more common.
"If you want to make something great, make it with people who, instead of having to act and become this person, they are, and therefore they can live the role and give it its true meaning," she says. "They make it so much more because, at the end of the day, we're trying to make stories that mean something. And that will last."
All Together Now, streaming Aug. 28th, stars Cravalho as Amber, a high school senior with dreams of attending Carnegie Mellon University. She and her single mother (Machado), though, are homeless; throughout the film, Amber tries to mask the pain and shame she feels over her living situation and her mother's substance abuse by giving back to those around her, instead of asking for help herself.
"Amber is optimistic like I am almost to a fault," says Cravalho. "I also grew up in a single-parent household, so I understood that dynamic between Amber and her mother, where it's the two of them against the world. Mother-daughter relationships are so powerful and so special."
For viewers who don't usually get to see themselves represented onscreen, it's powerful to watch Cravalho lead All Together Now—especially since it's perhaps her biggest role since 2016's Moana. The actress says that while she's "still tackling" typecasting, she's excited for opportunities like this to showcase other sides of herself.
"I've been really grateful to at 19 to know that about myself, that I have so many different interests, and that my talents are not just singing and acting," she says. She adds that she feels blessed to play "heroes and women who drive their own storylines," saying, "Amber is one of those women."
So is Cravalho. All Together Now comes out at the end of a summer defined by the reckoning of the Black Lives Matter movement, and many people have used this time to bring to light long-standing inequalities people of color have faced in Hollywood and beyond. Cravalho has been vocal on social media about these issues, but she says now that she believes true allyship comes from crucial, less visible work behind-the-scenes.
"I've known that since I was 14," she explains. "What's unfortunate is that over social media, it only happens if you post about it. In a time that's so tumultuous, climate issues and social rights issues can't be ignored anymore."
Still, speaking out can lead to controversy, as Cravalho knows. "The stances I've always had create a lot of tension, which for me is fine," she says. But she's committed to always educating herself before sharing her views.
"Once I am better informed, and I feel like this is something that has grounded itself into my heart, body, soul, all of it, then I can speak about it. I will passionately, and I do across social media and in real life and or interviews," she says. "But, until then, I think it's a really good standard to hold everyone to educate yourself before speaking."
At 19, Cravalho knows she's still learning; "I'm still figuring out who I am as a person and as a public figure," she says. But there's no better time to do it than now. During the pandemic, the actress has had to adjust to the new norms of work and life, all while having a major film dropping on Netflix. "Success feels very strange and nerve-wracking right now," she notes. But there are some silver linings, like "being able to appreciate what these projects allow me to do," she adds, saying, "for instance, I get to go home and be with my family. I got to go back to Hawaii and revoice [Moana] in Ōlelo Hawaii."
Right now, Cravalho is focusing on the future, like trying out new projects. "I'm absolutely attracted to Broadway and would love to perform when it's safe," she reveals, adding with a laugh, "I should really be prepping [for Broadway] now—I should see this as a good check-in, I should be working my butt off."
We have no doubt she will.