HONOLULU (KHON2) — Native Hawaiian actor and cinematographer Valen Ahlo stars as Luis, the director of a travel show filming in Hawaii, in The Hallmark Channel’s “You Had Me at Aloha.”
The romantic comedy premiered on Saturday, June 5, and kicked off the network’s Summer Nights series.
Ahlo’s character provides comic relief in the movie that was filmed entirely on Oahu at various iconic locations, including Kahala Hotel and Resort, Waimea Valley and Kualoa Ranch.
The actor credits the new virtual casting process — implemented due to COVID-19 restrictions — for giving him the upper hand and allowing him to beat out mainland contenders.
Three other actors from Hawaii also won parts in the Hallmark movie.
“Local actors don’t always get the chance to get a feature role in something big,” said Ahlo.
“Because in-person auditions were eliminated, it opened the door for us to be more visible and compete with mainland actors. It’s really through a mix of timing and technology that Hawaiʻi actors were given the opportunity to pick up larger roles — without having to relocate,” Ahlo said.
Ahlo, a Kamehameha Schools graduate, describes his on-screen character as very similar to his real-life persona with uncanny similarities in their careers.
As Luis, Ahlo plays a Hispanic director/videographer who travels the world filming in different countries.
“I am part Hispanic, and I do travel the world to film in real life,” said Ahlo. Luis is portrayed as playful and lighthearted, more traits that they have in common.
The actor believes that the network did a great job highlighting Hawaii’s beauty and magic.
The movie essentially has a fun story and is set in a beautiful location where the main characters (played by Pascale Hutton and Kavan Smith) fall in love because there is something special about Hawaii.
Ahlo’s message to other local and Hawaiian actors is that they do not have to move to Los Angeles or elsewhere to be successful, as was the case prior to the pandemic.
He is grateful to have landed a feature role on a major network, adding that it is a big step for Native Hawaiians who are getting into acting near and far.
“You Had Me At Aloha” next airs on Sunday, June 13..
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Follow Vanel Ahlo on social media @valenahlo.