Moana’s Auli’i Cravalho Shares Why Casting Queer Actors In LGBTQ+ Roles Was So Important To Hulu’s Crush

Auli’i Cravalho and Rowan Blanchard in Crush
(Image credit: Hulu)

While we were all bored and formulating an obsession of TikTok during the journey that was 2020, Auli’i Cravalho posted a video on the social media platform that nonchalantly informed us all she is bisexual. Nearly two years later, the 21-year-old Moana actress is starring in the latest queer rom-com and coming of age film, Crush, where two high school track team players form a sweet bond. And in a big win for representation, many of the cast and filmmakers involved in the Hulu film have personal experiences growing up and coming into their own in the LGBTQ+ community. 

In Crush, Auli’i Cravalho stars as AJ, the co-captain of Miller High School’s track team, who is assigned to train the team newcomer Paige, played by Rowan Blanchard, who also identifies as queer. Cravalho shared her thoughts on starring in Crush

I remember reading the script for the first time and being like, ‘This is really sweet, and the humor is on the nose and kind of edgy.’ And I also loved that while being a young teen queer rom-com, it also did not center around a coming out story, because I’ve seen that… got to learn from AJ, and I got to put myself in her shoes. But she’s also come out already, she is bi, that’s just who she is.

So many LGBTQ+ movies and television shows have leaned heavily on the coming out storyline, but Crush not only doesn’t repeat those clichés, it also features a character established in her bi identity. The actress thinks it definitely helped that the movie’s writers Kirsten King and Casey Rackham and first-time director Sammi Cohen are queer as well. As Cravalho continued to IndieWire

Suddenly it made sense like, ‘Oh, this is why the script is written so vibrantly.’ It’s because we’re represented behind the camera as well as in front of it, and I felt that when reading the script,” she said. “It makes or breaks the movie because … we’re putting on screen an experience that can’t be fudged. That’s why it’s also important to have actors who are queer, because if it was our first time kissing girls on screen, it probably wouldn’t have worked out. It would’ve been a completely different film if one of us wasn’t queer, and hadn’t had the experience of kissing another girl before.

Recently, we’re beginning to see more representation like this in movies, such as with 2020’s Happiest Season, which had writer/director Clea DuVall drawing from her own experiences to tell the holiday comedy, which starred a predominantly queer cast including Kristen Stewart, Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza and Victor Garber. Deadpool’s Karan Soni is developing a gay rom-com with his real-life partner as well and Billy Eichner is making history with a completely LGBTQ+ cast in his upcoming film. 

When reflecting on her 2020 viral coming out to EW, Auli’i Cravalho thought the “funniest part” was that she had girlfriends in high school and didn’t think she was necessarily coming out. The TikTok was a spontaneous 3 a.m. post, but it’s very possible it paved the way for her role in Crush

Prior to Crush, Auli’i Cravalho skyrocketed to stardom when she auditioned for Disney’s Moana and nabbed the voice role out of hundreds of actresses. She has since played Ariel in ABC’s 2019 live production of The Little Mermaid, making her Disney princess count to two. In 2020, she also starred in the music-themed coming-of-age film All Together Now for Netflix and Cravalho is expected to star in a movie version of Spring Awakening

Check out Crush with Auli’i Cravalho, Rowan Blanchard, Isabella Ferreira, Megan Mullally and Michelle Buteau now with a Hulu subscription

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.