Disney casts Australian actress as live-action Moana

Catherine Laga‘aia takes on the role of Moana in Disney's live-action retelling of the animated film.
Rena Owen, Catherine Laga‘aia, Frankie Adams, and John Tui for Moana. Images: Supplied by Walt Disney Studios.

A young Australian actress, Catherine Laga‘aia, has been cast as the lead role in Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of Moana.

The upcoming Moana is directed by Thomas Kail, who helmed Hamilton on Broadway and Disney+, Grease Live and the first and last episodes of Hulu’s limited series We Were the Lucky Ones

‘I’m really excited to embrace this character because Moana is one of my favorites,’ said Laga‘aia, the 17-year-old Sydney native. ‘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 honored 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 father, Chief Tui, Samoan-New Zealand actress Frankie Adams as Moana’s mother Sina, and Rena Owen, who hails from Bay of Islands, NZ, as Gramma Tala.

Dwayne Johnson will reprise his role as the larger-than-life demigod Maui.

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‘I am thrilled to have met Catherine, Rena, Frankie and John through this casting process,’ said director Thomas Kail. ‘I am humbled by this opportunity, and I cannot wait to all be on set together. And there’s no better pair to be in a canoe with than Catherine and Dwayne – actually, trio: Heihei is ready, too.’

Moana will bring to life the story of a young woman eager to pave her own path. Celebrating the islands, communities and traditions of Pacific Islanders, the production begins filming this summer.

The feature film is produced by Johnson, Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia via their Seven Bucks Productions and Beau Flynn via FlynnPictureCo. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the original songs, will also serve as producer. Executive producers include Scott Sheldon of FlynnPictureCo., Auli‘i Cravalho, who voiced Moana in the 2016 film, and Charles Newirth.

Jared Bush and Dana Ledoux Miller have been tapped for the project. Bush, a veteran of Disney Animation, wrote the screenplay for 2016’s Moana, and Miller is a Samoan writer who created Netflix’s Thai Cave Rescue and co-founded the non-profit Pasifika Entertainment Advancement Komiti.

Disney‘s live action Moana will come to Australian cinemas on 9 July 2026.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports