Auli'i Cravalho's Power Play
The Hawaiian actress stars in the dystopian Prime Video series The Power.
"There really was a sisterhood on set, and I had never experienced that before," says Auli'i Cravalho, one of the stars of the Prime Video series The Power.
Based on author Naomi Alderman's dystopian sci-fi novel of the same name, the drama depicts a world in which teenage girls and women develop the ability to electrocute people at will, shifting power dynamics all over the world.
Cravalho plays Jos Cleary-Lopez, a high school student who awakens the power in her mother, Seattle Mayor Margot Cleary-Lopez (Toni Collette).
All nine episodes of The Power were directed by women, Cravalho points out. "To know that there was a woman behind the camera really changed things for me," says the actress, who is interested in production. "I asked more questions like, 'How does a diopter work?' I wasn't afraid to be vulnerable and say what I didn't know."
Born and raised in Hawaii, Cravalho did community theater as a child, but becoming a professional actor felt like an impossible dream. "Who would actually take a chance on a little Hawaiian girl who never had any formal training?" she muses.
Turns out Disney would. At fourteen, Cravalho was cast as the lead voice actor in Moana, the 2016 animated musical about a Polynesian princess who embarks on an ocean adventure to save her people.
Cravalho went on to play a variety of other roles, including Ariel in ABC's The Little Mermaid Live!, a cheerleader (who dies after being electrocuted) in Hulu's supernatural film Darby and the Dead and a high school track star who falls in love in Hulu's queer rom-com Crush.
Now in production on Mean Girls — the musical film based on the Broadway show — Cravalho enjoys seeing how much joy this success brings her mother, Puanani, who raised her as a single parent. After a recent visit, as Cravalho got into a car to head to the airport, "I watched her start to tear up," she says. "I realized I've made her so proud."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #4, 2023, under the title, "Power Play."