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a close up photo of Moana star Catherine Laga‘aia smiling

‘Moana’ Lead Catherine Laga‘aia Excited to Bring Representation to Screen

Sydney teenager Catherine Laga’aia has been cast as Moana in the upcoming live-action film – and as you can imagine, she’s pretty excited about it!

The 17-year-old actor will join Dwayne Johnson who is not only reprising his role as demigod Maui but also serving as producer.

“I’m really excited to embrace this character because Moana is one of my favourites,” Catherine said in a press release. “My grandfather comes from Fa‘aala, Palauli, in Savai‘i. And my grandmother is from Leulumoega Tuai on the main island of ‘Upolu in Samoa. I’m honoured to have an opportunity to celebrate Samoa and all Pacific Island peoples, and to represent young girls who look like me.”

The cast also includes New Zealander John Tui as Moana’s no-nonsense father, Chief Tui; Samoan-New Zealand actor Frankie Adams who will portray Moana’s playful and strong-willed mother, Sina; and Rena Owen, who hails from Bay of Islands, New Zealand, and will play Gramma Tala.

Auli‘i Cravalho, who voiced Moana in the original 2016 animated film, is serving as executive producer alongside Hamilton legend Lin-Manuel Miranda who is also doing the music. Thomas Kail will direct the feature which is due to be released in theatres on July 10, 2026.

“I cannot wait to all be on set together,” Kail said. “And there’s no better pair to be in a canoe with than Catherine and Dwayne – actually, trio: Heihei is ready, too.”


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So what will the live-action Moana be about? Well, the plot is being kept under wraps for now but Disney has said the film “will bring to life in a whole new way the story of a young woman eager to pave her own path.”

Like the animated version, the aim is to celebrate the islands, communities and traditions of Pacific Islanders.

Filming begins this summer.

(Feature Image Credit: Catherine Laga’aia photo courtesy Disney)

Nehal is an award-winning news presenter, author of "A Kids Book About Kindness Online" and founder of CelebrityKind. She has dedicated her career to creating connected and healthy spaces in the media. When she's not writing, you'll find Nehal hanging with family, dancing to Beyoncé, interpreting Taylor Swift lyrics or watching old eps of Oprah.