Auli’i Cravalho Talks Hulu’s Queer Romantic Comedy ‘Vibrant’

WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Hulu’s new movie “Crush”

Trying to figure out if you have real feelings for your childhood crush or her sister can be difficult. But that’s the situation in Hulu’s new romantic comedy “Crush.” And for Auli’Cravalho, who plays half — or rather, third — of this love story, having queer writers was a huge factor in telling this story authentically.

“Having queer writers and a director just allowed us to have this movie so vibrant and funny,” Cravalho told TheWrap. “Like, being able to tease homosexuality too, you know? It’s funny, and it’s okay! ‘Cause we’re teasing, you know what I mean?

Directed by Sammi Cohen and written by Casey Rackham and Kirsten King, “Crush” follows Paige (Rowan Blanchard) as she tries to figure out what has been the happiest moment of her life so far, so she can immortalize it for her. college art school app. She thinks it may be her crush on Gabriella Campos (Isabella Ferreira) and the time she fell in love with her in elementary school.

Trouble is, Paige is considering suspension because her school administrators suspect her of being KingPun, an artist who graffitis school grounds with clever pun murals. So, in an effort to save her future, Paige offers to join the track crew, so she can prove she’s not marking the walls, and as a bonus, she can hang out with Gabby.

But Gabby’s sister, AJ (Cravalho), is also on the team and ends up in charge of bringing Paige up to speed. Understandably, the two girls are a little put off by the arrangement, but they make it work – and slowly fall for each other in the process.

For Cravalho, the project was something that immediately attracted her, thanks to the “intellectual” – and sometimes self-deprecating – writing. So, we broke everything with the actress.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length. You can watch the full interview in the video above.

“Crush” sounds like an easy yes. Rowan Blanchard is your sweetheart, Megan Mullally is hopefully your future mother-in-law, Isabella Ferreira is your sister – how quickly do you say yes to something like that?

Cravalho: I read the script and thought it was so nice to have a movie centered around LGBTQ characters, but not have the movie itself centered around a coming-out story, you know? It was so complete, vibrant and funny that I said yes, very quickly.

Yes, as you said, this is not a coming out story. These girls are both completely out there and perfectly comfortable with themselves, minus the typical teenage stuff. It’s a love story. So what kind of conversations happened in the making of this? Because it seems very deliberate.

Yeah! Well, it was really wonderful working with our director Sammi Cohen and our writers Casey Rackham and Kirsten King, because they’re also queer. So having queer writers and a director just allowed us to have this movie that was so vibrant and funny. Like, being able to tease homosexuality too, you know? It’s funny, and it’s okay! ‘Cause we’re teasing, you know what I mean?

And I think that’s another part that’s really great is that Gen Z humor is so on-the-nose and on-point. And for working with such an amazing cast, like you said, it’s Rowan Blanchard, Isabella Ferreira, Teala Dunn, Rico Paris, Addie Weyrich, with Aasif Mandvi, Michelle Buteau and Meghan Mullally. Like, we’re stacked.

You are. So in this movie you are stars of the runway. Was there a time when you might have thought, “Listen, running is hard. Could we make them swimmers or something a little easier?” Because that would have been my big gripe.

(Laughs) I would have loved that. Listen, Moana in me would have love the swimming side. I appreciate that. I am not a runner. I am not a runner. So I practiced and I like…running, you know. It wasn’t any more fun in pre-production than it was in the daytime. And also, running on a track is hard because we had spikes in our shoes. And oh my, my calves were so sore.

We had a lovely trainer, and he was like, ‘You better ice your legs!’ and I didn’t. And I came back the next day, he was like, ‘Did you freeze your legs?’ And I was like, ‘No, I didn’t have time.’ He’s like ‘Children! The children don’t listen to me and I don’t understand” and I said to myself, oh, he’s a real coach. He’s a real coach who will be able to challenge you.

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I also learned to skateboard for it and fell a lot. So like, the answer is all hurt. (Laughs).

You are also KingPun in this field. Were some of these puns actually yours? If you’re secretly a master of Auli’i puns, I want to know.

No, I didn’t invent any, but I love puns. i have a tattoo [on my finger] which says “OW”. One, because it hurt when I got it. But also because Auli’i, and then if I go that way, then it’s “MO”, short for Moana. And for my next tattoo, I want to get a little — do you know spicy thyme? I want to have some on my ribs, to have “thyme on my side”.

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OK, so I don’t believe you. Some of those puns in the movie were yours and you can take them to your grave, that’s fine. But with this joke, you’re never going to convince me that some of them weren’t yours.

KingPun was mine. I was supposed to play KingPun.

Absolutely. Well, even if the puns aren’t your thing, you play around with your humor a lot in “Crush.” Some of the banter between you and Rowan really made me laugh out loud. What was it like playing opposite her?

Having comedic timing is I feel like I’m something you’re blessed with or you’re not. And luckily it was very easy to play against each other. Our script was also so rich, I think it was because we had writers who were queer and were interested in playing with that teasing aspect, you know what I mean? And it’s kind of, I feel like a com trope novel in and of itself, where they’re not quite enemies for the lovers, but it’s like, little nags here and there . Clever. It’s clever banter back and forth, that’s what it is. So that intellectual side, I think, played out really well between AJ and Paige.

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I’m glad you mentioned tropes because there are a lot of tropes in “Crush” that aren’t in your face tropes. How is it somehow enemies to lovers, but not. And then you have your track meet where it’s like, “Oh no, there’s only one bed in this hotel room.” You have a few in there. Do you personally have a favorite rom-com trope or movie trope in general?

I do, I like witty jokes. Like, it’s hot. When do you have this intellectual connection? I love that. [Also] Yeah, why didn’t I just sleep with my sister? I DON’T KNOW. I don’t know about this one. (Laughs)

It wouldn’t have served the purpose of a love affair. That’s why you don’t have a room with your sister.

To correct. Correctamundo.

Although, if you had been staying with your sister, you could have sneaked into each other’s rooms at night. Look, it could have happened a lot of ways. I feel like it was a winner no matter what was written, but there are a lot of ways it could have happened.

We would have had the queer love story no matter what!

“Crush” is now streaming on Hulu.