Kristina Anapau’s ‘Kuleana’
Known for her roles in Black Swan, True Blood and House, actor and Big Island native Kristina Anapau’s sights are set on her latest film project, which will be released in 2019.
Although she left her hometown of Hilo for the bright lights of Hollywood back in 1997, actor Kristina Anapau can’t help but notice that Hawai‘i has always played a starring role in her life and career.
Best known for her roles in the Oscar-nominated film Black Swan and the HBO hit series True Blood, Anapau has experienced many full-circle moments related to Hawai‘i through the years, whether doing voiceover for the Disney animated film Moana, or co-producing and acting in the award-winning indie film Kuleana to be released worldwide under the new title, Maui, in early 2019.
“Culturally, there is a depth in Hawai‘i that I don’t find very often anywhere else,” says Anapau from her home in Beverly Hills. “I appreciate the general beauty and peacefulness of it all. I think the strong connection to the land and nature helped me stay grounded and focused in who I was as a person. I also became a good observer, which helps me in business and with people, and to not get sucked into LA drama.”
Born and raised in Hilo, Anapau graduated from Hilo High School two years early at age 15. She attended University of Hawai‘i at Hilo straightaway, studying dance and art history. She graduated from Skidmore College in New York.
Anapau cites her mentors as Celeste Anderson, a dance teacher at UH Hilo, as well as Jackie Johnson, former theater department head at UH Hilo. From set designing to costume making, Anapau learned a variety of skills that come in handy to this day as she continues to work on a bevy of projects as a writer, producer and/or actor.
“Those classes were hugely responsible for me having as much success as I did at a young age,” she says. “Celeste was such an amazing source of inspiration. As a ballet teacher, she let me explore making costumes, building sets and creating choreography. It’s all come into play through the years because I’ve had to wear many hats.”
In the beginning, Anapau didn’t set out to become an actress, but that’s exactly what happened when she signed up, at age 16, to be an extra in a film being shot on O‘ahu called, Escape From Atlantis. Instead of an anonymous appearance, she ended up getting the lead role as the princess of Atlantis. Afterward, the director and his wife encouraged her to come to LA and start auditioning for other roles.
One of her first acting stints was as a nurse on the ABC soap General Hospital. Other notable TV credits include CSI: NY, House, Monk, Without a Trace, The Glades and Knight Rider. As a producer and writer, she also created a kids’ show (The John Kerwin Kid’s Show) that airs on DIRECTV. When she booked the 2010 feature film Black Swan (starring Natalie Portman), she had the unprecedented opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream to train with the American Ballet Theatre.
“I studied with the ABT in preparation for Black Swan with two Russian ballet teachers six hours a day, six days a week,” she recalls. “It was very intense.”
Anapau says working with Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky was life changing. The experience helped set the stage for more gritty, serious roles in indie films to follow.
By far her favorite project was True Blood, the uber-popular vampire TV series in which she portrayed the enchanting Maurella. In the season finale, her character gives birth to quadruplets. As part of her recurring character, she was able to use some of her ballet training, as well.
“The fan base for True Blood is tremendous,” she says. “The cast was an instant family for me and so much fun. Who doesn’t want to play the queen of the fairies? Chris Bauer is one of the most talented actors I’ve ever witnessed on screen and have worked with. He is incredible. We had a lot of fun creating scenes. He helped a lot with developing my character and was in part responsible for me having an ongoing role in True Blood. He explained that the writers wrote through a sort of process of osmosis – If you give them nuances to work with, they take that and run. Sure enough, they kept expanding my storyline.”
Most recently, Anapau came on board in the early script phase for Kuleana (aka Maui), an independent film about island culture that made its debut in Hawai‘i this year. It was during the filming of Kuleana that she first met and worked with Kaua‘i-born actress Sonya Balmores. They recently wrote a feature film script together.
“We’re great friends,” says Anapau. “She lives here in LA, as well.”
As for upcoming projects, Anapau has a TV show and feature film in development in which she produces and acts. A “life-affirming,” family-friendly production, the TV show will be filmed in Oregon. To take place on a cruise ship, the feature film will be shot on locations all over the world, she says.
In the meantime, Anapau is busy with a renovation project in Beverly Hills. Although she usually comes home to Pepe‘ekeo for the holidays, she is currently knee-deep in sawdust, plaster and paint.
“I’ve been back to Hilo a few times this year,” she said. “My fiancé and I bought a four-plex in Beverly Hills that was built by the seller’s grandparents in 1936. We are doing renovations on it to keep it authentic to the era. More than likely, my dad will come here for the holidays. But I can’t stay away from the islands for long. I’ll be back next year for sure.”