Home and Away star's daughter lands major role in Disney's Moana remake

Disney has cast a 17-year-old Sydneysider in the title role.

Jay Laga’aia and his daughter Catherine Laga’aia / Moana.
Australian actress Catherine Laga’aia is set to star in the live-action remake of Moana. Photos: Alexei Hay / Disney

Disney has announced that the titular role in the upcoming live-action remake of Moana will be played by an up-and-coming Australian actress. Following in the footsteps of previous live-action Disney princesses Lily James, Emma Watson and Halle Bailey is 17-year-old Catherine Laga’aia from Sydney.

The teenager will be acting alongside Dwayne Johnson, who will reprise his role as the demigod Maui, as well as New Zealand actors John Tui, Frankie Adams and Rena Owen.


“I’m really excited to embrace this character because Moana is one of my favourites,” she said in a statement on Thursday. “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.”

Catherine Laga’aia / Jay Laga’aia and his daughter Catherine Laga’aia on a plane.
Catherine’s father is New Zealand-Australian actor Jay Laga’aia. Photos: Instagram/jaylagaaia

While you might not be too familiar with Catherine, whose sole acting credit before Moana is a guest role in The Lost Flowers of Alice Heart, there’s a good chance you know her father Jay Laga’aia.

The New Zealand-Australian actor is best known for his roles as Captain Typho in Star Wars and Elijah Johnson in Home and Away. He also appeared on Play School from 2000 to 2014, competed on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in 2017, and has starred in numerous stage productions including the recent Australian tour of Grease the Musical.

Jay took to Instagram on Thursday to express his excitement over his daughter’s achievement, writing: “My family and I are so pleased to share this news with the rest of the world. My daughter Katie can finally share the news that she will be taking on the role of Moana in the live-action Disney movie alongside Dwayne Johnson and Lin Manuel Miranda.”

In December the Water Rats star posted a photo of himself and Catherine in New York where they had a “quick trip for a job interview”, which was likely an audition for Moana.

Moana’s original voice actress Auliʻi Cravalho.
Moana’s original voice actress Auliʻi Cravalho will serve as an executive producer on the new film. Photo: Instagram/auliicravalho

Auliʻi Cravalho, who voiced Moana in the 2016 animated flick, confirmed last year that she would not be reprising her role in the live-action version. However, she shared a post on social media revealing that she would serve as an executive producer on the film and was excited to help find the next young woman of Pacific Island descent to take on the role.

“When I was cast as Moana at 14, it wonderfully changed my life and started my career,” she said. “In this live-action retelling, I will not be reprising the role. I believe it is absolutely vital the casting accurately represents the characters and stories we want to tell.

“So, as an executive producer on the film, I cannot wait to help find the next actress to portray Moana’s courageous spirit, undeniable wit and emotional strength. I’m truly honoured to pass this baton to the next young woman of Pacific Island descent to honour our incredible peoples, cultures and communities that help inspire her story.”


The live-action Moana film is set to be released in theatres on July 10, 2026. In the meantime, the animated sequel to the original film, titled Moana 2, will hit cinemas later this year on November 27.

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