Maui Boy Selected for Role in “Aloha Santa” Christmas Movie

December 10, 2015, 5:00 PM HST · Updated December 11, 3:51 PM
Wendy Osher · 0 Comments

Ryan Ursua. Family photo.

Ryan Ursua. Family photo.

Maui’s Ryan Ursua, a 5th grader at Pōmaikaʻi Elementary School, has been cast in the Christmas comedy movie “Aloha Santa” staring comedian/actor George Lopez.

“He stopped and his eyes just got big,” said Gina Latu, Ryan’s mom who described her son’s reaction when he learned the news last night.  Latu had a family friend dress up as Santa Claus and deliver an envelope to Ryan during a family and friend outing to Fun Factory at the Maui Mall on Wednesday.

“Santa gave him an envelope and we had him open it up and read it in front of everybody.  The letter said that we wanted to let him know that we love him, and no matter what, when he wants something, to put his mind to it and don’t forget to put God first.  And we just wanted to tell him congratulations that he got the part!” said Latu, who noted that one of the casting agents for the movie was also in attendance.

Ryan will be playing the role of Kai, a 10-year-old boy that Santa (played by George Lopez) meets after he crashes his sleigh on Maui. The story is about the 40-something Santa who is stuck on Maui a few weeks before Christmas and is having trouble with his magical powers working properly.

Aloha Santa movie poster credit:

Aloha Santa movie poster credit:


“He’s trying to get Kai to believe in Santa, but really ends up sort-of immersing himself in the Hawaiian culture, (and) getting into a lot of misadventures,” said director, producer and co-writer Jonathan Yudis in a presentation reel on the website.  “The deeper story is really about a character learning to believe in themselves,” said Yudis, who called the concept a universal theme.

With a script now in hand, Ryan has a few days to get familiarized with his new found fame before meeting Lopez next week on Dec. 18.

The movie will begin filming in various locations across the island on Dec. 21, during Ryan’s winter break from school.  If he misses school, Ryan’s mom says there’s an on-site teacher that will keep him up to date on his school work.

Although this is his first stint at acting, Ryan’s mom said her son is very outgoing.  “He likes to make people laugh.  Ever since he was small, he liked to say things that he knows people will think is silly; and, he doesn’t mind being the center of attention,” said Latu.

Ryan Ursua. Family photo.

Ryan Ursua. Family photo.

According to Latu, Ryan’s favorite thing to do is hang out with his cousins.  He’s also a big fan of the Seattle Seahawks, and loves music and dance. With Christmas around the corner, Ryan, like a typical 10-year-old boy, is hoping to get an iPhone and an automatic air-soft gun.

Ryan is co-parented by Gina Latu, her husband Sione Latu, and Ryan’s dad Jeff Ursua.  Ryan also has a little brother Rayden, 4, and is expecting a little sister on the way in April.

Yudis, who is the movie’s director, producer and co-writer, has also directed Walt Disney’s Pocahontas II.

Ryan Ursua. Family photo.

Ryan Ursua. Family photo.

The producing team also includes JC Spink (who worked on The Hangover), Mark Bakshi (former president of worldwide feature film production at Paramount Pictures who also worked on Moneyball and Rango); and Hawaiʻi entertainer and producer Eric Gilliom.

On the website, Yudis is quoted as saying, “Fifty percent of directing is casting.  If you cast your film correctly and you find the right actors to embody the roles to bring them to life, it all kind of works from there.”

According to Latu, the premiere of Aloha Santa is expected next Fall, with the release slated for next Christmas.

Ryan Ursua. Family photo.

Ryan Ursua. Family photo.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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