Disney’s newest upcoming series, Hailey’s On It, tells the story of Hailey (Auli’i Cravalho) and Scott (Manny Jacinto), two childhood best friends who set off on an adventure to save the world. Hailey is tasked with this mission after a scientist from the future saves her life. With the help of AI sidekick, Beta, the friends must complete a list of risk-taking tasks to stop the world from burning to a crisp. Filled with wacky humor and meaningful moments, the show is a definite crowdpleaser, suitable for all ages. Ahead of its official release on June 8th, APA spoke with the voice behind the protagonist, Auli’i Cravalho, about what the show means to her, and why it’s important for AAPI communities.
Thinking back to the beginning of this project, Cravalho said it was an easy decision to join the show, both for the fun story and for the representation it brings to the table. “I’ve been so lucky that I’ve been able to voice characters who share traits of wanting to make the world a better place and conquering their fears. When I was introduced to Hailey, I was like, ‘Oh, I see you, young person of color, ready to take on all of your dreams,’ and I loved it.” Cravalho described Hailey as a shy, reserved 14 year old. “It’s so relatable to have a fourteen year old who’s scared to take risks. Some of the list items that she has include ‘spike her hair and dye it bright neon,’ ‘learn how to play the glockenspiel,’ and ‘kiss her best friend Scott,’ then there are some really fantastical wishes, and some that are cringy but meaningful. It’s really important that we see young people shoot for the stars, believe in themselves, and take these small steps to start completing these big, beautiful dreams. And even if you’re not great at it, even if you fail, it’s the fact that you’ve tried and that you’ll try again, that makes all the difference. I think Hailey teaches the audience that, but I think she also taught me that, too.”
Emphasizing how relatable her character is, Cravalho could only think of similarities she shares with Hailey. “I definitely had a crush on some of my friends before, so that hits me right away,” she shares with a laugh. Having similar interests, Cravalho finds Hailey’s interests inspiring and endearing, almost like an older sister. “She geeks out about all the things that she’s passionate about, which includes building birdhouses, being a young woman in STEM, and obsessing over her dad’s fried rice recipe.”
While Hailey is a unique character, the actress mentioned she poured a lot of herself into the role. “I’ve been really grateful to add my own quirks and humor to her, so I’m not really sure where she begins and I end.” Admiring Hailey for tackling her fears and going on a self discovery journey at such a young age, Cravalho offered some advice to the young 14 year old and to viewers: “You are important. You are going to change the world.”
Getting her start in the industry as the voice of iconic Disney Princess Moana, Cravalho worked on a few live action series before returning to the voice acting scene for Hailey’s On It. With the time gap between her first and most recent VO roles, her approach to the craft has certainly matured. “I love voiceover work. I truly just step into a booth, take off my shoes every time, get really close to the mic, close my eyes, and then I just tell a story. I don’t have to worry about what I’m doing with my hands or what I’m doing with my face because it’s just about the voice portraying emotion, and it makes me really, really happy.” Referring back to her time as Moana, Cravalho also explains that film and TV are also vastly different. “Working on an animated film, you have an hour, or an hour and a half, to tell this beautiful story where you have the setup, the conflict, a climax, and then the resolution. In a series, you have 20 minutes.” For voicing Hailey in particular, the actress is glad she was able to play around with her role so much. “There are so many characters that come in and out. Yes, I do play Hailey Banks in our series, but I also play different versions of Hailey,” she shared with excitement. “I put on a vocal fry and I go a little deeper, and essentially, I’m pop star Hailey. It’s really fun as an actor to just play, and I really enjoyed working with our team and getting to just try things out.”
As AAPI History Month drew to an end last month, Cravalho shared her hope for future generations and for the general public to keep their attention on growing representation. “The first time I saw myself on screen, at least in an animated sense, was Lilo and Stitch. I remember I was like, ‘She’s Hawaiian!’ That kind of changed the trajectory for me, and I’ve realized that seeing yourself or a version of yourself or seeing your culture on screen, allows you to dream just that much bigger and realize like, ‘Oh, that could be me,’ and that’s what makes all the difference.”
Contuining on about the topic, it’s clear that she has a lot of passion for representation and helping AAPI youth stay included. “AAPI History Month is coming to a close, but I need everyone to keep this energy throughout the year. I also want people to realize that working in film doesn’t only mean being in front of the camera, and I want to see more people in the writer’s rooms. I want to see more people of color as directors and producers, and as gaffers working on the lights on set and making props and working on the set design. I think it’s so important that we have more AAPI representation in all aspects of film, because our stories just become that much richer.” Going more in depth into her hope, she explained that it adds a layer of authenticity when everyone involved on a project comes from different backgrounds. “We all we have our own experiences, and when we add them to screen, I think it also allows the audience to become that much that much more clued in to a heritage, a culture, or a practice that they simply weren’t aware of before. It creates a more diverse, inclusive world to live in if we accurately portray different cultures on screen, and I think that’s most important.”
Not wanting to finish the conversation without mentioning Hailey’s On It one more time, Cravalho wrapped up with a thoughtful commercial pitch for the show: “Okay, so let’s get this set up. If Hailey Banks is standing with a cape on in front of a movie screen, she’d be like, ‘I’m Hailey Banks, and I’m going to save the world.’ Then, the set kind of collapses around her, and she’s like, ‘I’m still going to save the world.’ That’s how I think it would go, because there are a lot of trials and tribulations, and things don’t come easily for her. She’s got to defeat chaos robots that try to take her down from the future, but through it all, she perseveres.”