(From L-R): Hilo Pelesasa, Ioane Goodhue, Kaimana and Beulah Koale in NEXT GOAL WINS. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.© 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

Kaimana Solai on Bringing Jaiyah’s Story to Life in ‘Next Goal Wins’

Kaimana Solai plays Jaiyah Saelua in the new Taika Waititi film Next Goal Wins, which explores the true story of the underdog American Samoa football team. We spoke with Solai, whose character is a Faʻafafine player who was on the team while Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) was the coach.

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The movie departs slightly from the true story, especially in regards to Jaiyah’s role in the team, as Next Goal Wins lets Jaiyah play a bigger part in the team. So when I spoke with Solai about bringing Jaiyah Saelua to life, they talked about getting her blessing prior to filming and how the film’s version of Jaiyah differs from her real story.

“I think pretty much the only time that I got to have the opportunity to collaborate with her in some capacity was a day or two before filming,” Solai said. “I met her at the launch party of the film and it was really there that she gave me the best piece of advice that I had gotten, I think, throughout the entire duration of the process. She was telling me, ‘Sis, I understand that, this character is not necessarily gonna be an exact replica of me and my journey. And she told me that this character that I’m gonna be portraying is a mix of not just her but me and what I give to the character, as well as what Taika wrote for the character. And so it was kind of a trio collaboration, if you will. And that really took a lot of pressure off of my shoulders because I was feeling the pressure for sure. It’s an actual real-life person who is still living and breathing and you worry that what they’re gonna think of your performance. So it meant the world that she had given me that piece of advice and I ran with it.”

You can see our full conversation here:

Next Goal Wins is in theaters now!

(featured image: Searchlight Pictures)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.