‘Darby and the Dead’ Stars Riele Downs and Auliʻi Cravalho on Playing Against What’s Expected

Riele Downs and Auliʻi Cravalho are ready for a change.

Both actresses are well known names in the kid-friendly Nickelodeon-Disney world, but in Disney+’s Darby and the Dead, Downs and Cravalho play characters completely different from what fans have often seen and expected from them.

After many seasons as the “sassy” superhero best friend on Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger, Downs is finally settling in to a more mature and outsider role as Darby, who was once a peppy cheerleader of sorts-turned-emo after a near-death experience causing her to see dead people. Instead of focusing on her life in high school, she rather spend time helping the dead move on.

“It was a really nice change of pace,” Downs tells The Nerds of Color. “I feel like, as an actor, you desire to do the entire range of emotions and spectrum of people. So, it was exciting to transition to something new and especially with this character — she does have elements that were definitely relatable to me like how she’s a little but more introverted and she likes to go on her own like a lone wolf way, but she’s also way more than that.”

Cravalho agrees and was excited to play a character completely different from her past roles. Known for her down-to-Earth, do-gooder roles in Moana, NBC’s Rise, and Hulu’s Crush, Cravalho finally got to play the popular “mean girl,” Capri — who unfortunately meets her demise after a tragic accident involving a flat iron and water. Capri enlists Darby to help her move on or else — in mean girl fashion– Capri will haunt Darby forever.

“I’ve been so lucky with the characters that I’ve played in the past that there are people that you root for and that you want to see,” says Cravalho. “Capri is not one of those people. I really leaned in. It was really fun to play someone who’s camp.”

Of course, there are layers to both characters beyond their initial appearance. Cravalho emphasizes that even though we see Capri as the typical popular girl, she’s much more complex. Yet, Cravalho, who says she’s somewhat like Capri in a way, and not learned her lesson on electronics and water.

“I dropped my phone in the in the bathroom yesterday,” she laughs. “I had to play that sound on YouTube that everyone uses of how to get water out of your phone where it plays different vibrations. I’ve learned nothing.”

For the full interview check it out below:

Darby and the Dead premieres on December 2nd on Disney+!