Maui Arts & Entertainment

EXCLUSIVE Interview with ‘KULEANA’ Star, Maui’s Moronai Kanekoa

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PC: Kuleana / Hawaii Cinema

The award-winning film KULEANA begins its statewide theatrical release this Friday, March 30th at Regal and Consolidated Theaters throughout Hawaiʻi and Guam.

Maui Now’s Wendy Osher talked with KULEANA’s male lead, Moronai Kanekoa about the upcoming opening and a special opening event happening here on Maui this Saturday.

“I don’t really get a chance to play Hawaiian characters,” said Kanekoa who spoke of the rarity and privilege of the opportunity to come home for work on a feature film.

Kanekoa grew up on Maui, but has been living on the mainland since college, with his career taking him to Los Angeles and New York.  He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT; and a Masters of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of Southern California.

Moronai Kanekoa. Motion Pictures produced in Hawai’i, about Hawai’i, by residents of Hawai’i. Kuleana, LLC / Jack Grace


While at USC, Kanekoa was paired up with mentor, Keo Woolford, who wrote and directed The Haumana (2013). Through that experience, Kanekoa had the opportunity to do a voice-over for the project, but his role in KULEANA is his first time to play a Hawaiian character in a feature film.  “For me it was a great experience… really invaluable,” he said.

Upon his return to Maui for the filming of KULEANA, Kanekoa took comfort in staying at the home he grew up in.   “I had been back visiting, but it was nice to actually come back and live at home and reconnect,” he said.

The film is set on Maui in 1971.  Kanekoa, was cast in the role of Nohea, a Vietnam veteran who recently returned to the island to find that the cost of living is too much, his grandmother is on her deathbed and he is ready to leave the island he once called home.  “Certain events happen, certain people come back into his life that remind him of what’s important.  They bring him back to his family and his home, and his responsibility to take care of that,” said Kanekoa.

“I’m a little biased towards Maui, and most of it was filmed on Maui, so it’s kind of a Maui baby,” Kanekoa said of the film.  “I think anyone who wants to support the Hawaiian Cinema and help it to go to the next level, should definitely come out this weekend.”


“If it does well this weekend, it has a chance of staying longer in theaters,” said Kanekoa, “which is what we need for Hawaiian Cinema.”

Kanekoa’s repertoire includes TV, film and theater.  He recently participated in Hawaiʻi Theater’s, The Legend of Koʻolau, which toured across the islands.  He’s also in The 10 Year Plan (2014) which is on Netflix, and had appearances on ABC’s Castle (2009) and CBS’s As The World Turns.

Saturday Maui Milestone Opening Event at the Maui Mall

KULEANA is the first locally-produced motion picture in almost a decade to merit a statewide Theatrical release.


To commemorate the production’s milestone achievement, Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa and County Film Commissioner Tracy Bennett will join Writer/Director Brian Kohne (an HP Baldwin High School graduate), producer Stefan Schaefer, and star Moronai Kanekoa (Maui High School graduate) plus members of the cast and crew at the Maui Mall on Saturday, March 31 on center stage in front of the Regal Maui Mall Megaplex 12 (where the movie is playing) for a free family-friendly event from 3 to 6 p.m.

KULEANA opens in the Regal Maui Mall in Kahului and Wharf Cinema Center in Lahaina, on Oʻahu in Consolidated Theaters Pearlridge, Kapolei, and Kahala Mall, on Hawaiʻi Island at Regal Keauhou Stadium in Kona and Prince Kūhiō in Hilo, and in Līhue, Kauaʻi at the Kukui Grove Cinema. KULEANA also opens in Tamuning, in Guam. Mainland residents can sign up to host/attend a screening in their city at via Gathr.

Kuleana. PC: Brian Khone/Maui FIlm Festival


KULEANA is the Hawaiian word for Spiritual Responsibility. The provocative new mystery/drama was written and directed by Brian Kohne, produced by Stefan Schaefer, and stars Moronai Kanekoa, Sonya Balmores (Marvel’s INHUMANS), Kristina Anapau (TRUE BLOOD), Augie T, Marlene Sai, Branscombe Richmond (CHICAGO MED), and Mel Cabang. Willie K provides an original score; the soundtrack boasts hit songs by Joni Mitchell, Procol Harum, and Tony Orlando and Dawn, with Hawaiian classics of the era by Genoa Keawe, Lena Machado, Sunday Manoa, Sons of Hawaii, Marlene Sai, and more.

More information on the movie can be found at the official website:

*Pacific Media Group, Maui Now’s parent company is a shareholder in the film Kuleana


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