EXCLUSIVE: Bryce Dallas Howard Just May Be the Happiest Person in Hollywood

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Bryce Dallas Howard has a laugh that should be heard to be
appreciated. It’s hearty and genuine -- an infectious burst of gusto that
happens when she gets excited about something, such as acting, which,
surprisingly enough, is not something that all actors enjoy talking about. But
in Howard’s case she does.

Over the course of a couple of phone chats -- one
interrupted by a dead cell phone battery -- one can hear the earnest joy in her
voice, usually followed by that laughter, when talking about her journey from
M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, her
feature film debut, to the massive success of Jurassic World despite her character’s penchant for running in
heels
from dinosaurs and, most recently, her 2017 Screen Actors Guild
Award-nominated performance
in an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror.

“Maybe this is a little corny, but I’m a third-generation
actor, so it’s awesome to be recognized in that way,” Howard tells ET about why
being nominated for a SAG Award is so particularly special.

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The daughter of director and actor Ron Howard (and wife
Cheryl Alley) and granddaughter to longtime actors Rance and Jean Speegle
Howard, Bryce grew up in the business, operating the camera at her father’s
auditions when she was 11 and appearing as an extra in his films. Later, she
attended the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and started acting
in Off-Broadway plays, where she caught the attention of Shyamalan, who subsequently
cast her in the starring role of his next thriller.

Howard’s journey into acting, she fully admits, didn’t
follow the traditional path of doing commercials, then landing bit or
guest-starring parts on TV shows before landing that breakout role -- a
“traditional ramp-up,” as she puts it. Instead, it found her. The daughter of
Ron Howard was suddenly starring in $71 million budget film for a director some
were calling “the next Steven Spielberg.”

“I knew at the time it was a very unique situation,” Howard
says, looking back on the project, which she filmed nearly 15 years ago in
October of 2003, just after graduating from NYU. “Even more now, I’m acutely
aware of what a huge leap Night took [laughs]
and how extraordinary that is. To have not done anything and then to play that
role in that kind of movie -- that took a lot of guts on his part and then a
lot of follow through, because he worked really hard with me.” 

Buena Vista

While she has since grown as an actor -- and shed the “daughter
of…” moniker -- Howard is still struck by how lucky she was at the time. “It’s
really interesting because there’s a perspective now that I didn’t have when I
was doing the junket, when I was 23 years old,” Howard marvels.

But playing Ivy Elizabeth Walker, a blind girl sent on a
mission to retrieve medicines from a town outside a remote village in the
woods, was a formative experience for the actress. Working with Shyamalan, in
particular, taught her a reverence for the movie-making process. “He set me off
on this path that acting is not just showing up and saying your lines and doing
your best to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances,” Howard says.
“You’re part of a message, part of a legacy that’s going to potentially last
for generations to come. And you’d better take it seriously and give every
ounce of humanity to it.”

After working with him, Howard felt like she couldn’t do a
project unless it was something she truly believed in. “It contextualized the
‘why we do it all,’” she explains. “He inspired that in my head, so that it
felt natural for me to work for Lars von Trier,” which she did immediately
following The Village, “or Black Mirror. That just feels so right.
You can feel the art behind it. Those are the situations I want to be in.”

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And in the midst of all that, there was some stuff with
being “Ron Howard’s daughter.” Early in her career, she wouldn’t read for him
or seek his advice on auditions. At times, she would get wrapped up with asking
herself if she had an advantage and whether or not she had used it. “It was
about me processing that and trying to let go of the fears of other people
around you,” she says of trying to find her own identity, which she’s still
figuring out. But now, at 35, she’s come to terms with it -- and actually seeks
it out. “I want my identity to be aligned with his. The older I get, the more
that’s all I care about.”

At first worried about nepotism, Howard has shrugged that
off. “I’m sort of like, ‘I want to spend the day with my dad!’ [Laughs] For whatever reason, that’s what
I want.”

When it comes to her episode of Black Mirror, “Nosedive,” in which she plays a woman in the
near-future consumed by rating technology, Howard found herself making good on
a general meeting she had with director Joe Wright 10 years prior. “He reached
out to me,” she says, revealing she instantly said yes to the treatment and
within a couple of months found herself on set with co-stars Alice Eve and
Cherry Jones. 

Netflix

The end result saw Howard delivering one of her best
onscreen performances as a character slowly undone by her own ambitions. It not
only earned her a SAG Award nomination, but also some of the best reviews and attention
of her career. “I was just telling my parents: More people have come up to me
about Black Mirror than any of my
other movies combined. [Laughs] It’s
wild!” Howard says excitedly. “I am floored. I am just so proud of it.”

“It’s so interesting as an actor to see how stories can
resonate on different mediums and what the impact might be in terms of your
visibility,” she continues. “That I did not expect.”

And while she didn’t have to audition for Black Mirror, there was a certain amount
of trust that Howard knew she could rely on. “[Joe] just knew,” Howard says
about not hesitating to sign on, but also giving her all to the performance.

MORE: Bryce Dallas Howard Spoofs Nicholas Sparks for Funny or Die

Having learned from her days in the audition room with her
father, she knew there had to be trust in those in charge of the creative
process. “I would see that there was not only one person that could do the job,
there were many people,” Howard says. “It was just the factor that’s oftentimes
out of the person’s control.”

Jurassic was the first
thing I did after having my second child,” Howard says, reflecting on the short
hiatus she took after 2011, following the success of The Help, which at the time was her biggest film to date. Following
Jurassic World, 2016 has seen Howard
appear in back-to-back projects: Pete’s
Dragon
, Black Mirror and Gold. “It’s exciting for me to get to be
a working actor and to get to work on a few different projects that are coming
out in a given year.”

And when reflecting on the attention and accolades
surrounding Black Mirror in
particular, Howard is probably more frank than most. “Honestly, what it comes
down to is that I feel acknowledged as an actor if I get the opportunity to
work or if I get invited to callbacks or if I'm getting invited to be in the
room,” she says. “That to me, honestly, is the satisfaction that I crave.”