Bryce Dallas Howard may be starring as the villain in two current films, but she's merely acting the part. Off-screen she comes across as the friendly, easygoing mom you might meet at the playground, coffee in hand. With a 4-year-old named Theo at home and another baby on the way, this isn't much of a stretch.
But when it comes to her health, Howard is no stranger to taking a darkly dramatic turn. During her first pregnancy she gained 80 pounds (double her recommended amount), then battled a prolonged postnatal depression so severe she "felt like I was in a deep pit, and I couldn't get out of it." She credits her family with recognizing her stark emotional withdrawal during this painful period, then pushing her to seek professional help.
The rising star is, and always has been, tight with her parents. Her dad is the legendary Ron Howard, who was once known the world over as "Opie" and "Richie Cunningham" for his TV sitcom roles and went on to achieve Oscar greatness as the producer/director of such films as A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13. Young Bryce grew up in Greenwich, Conn., far removed from Tinseltown's trappings. She was aware of her father's fame, she says, but was never snared in its spotlight.
Instead, she paid her dues on Broadway and for years shined in quieter films such as M. Night Shyamalan's spooky Lady in the Water and Clint Eastwood's reflective Hereafter. (Supporting roles in Spider-Man 3 and Eclipse, the third installment in the Twilight saga, are mega-budget exceptions.) Her early work is impressive, if a bit low-key, much like Howard herself. But get ready, because the flame-haired actress, 30, is about to cause a stir.
In addition to being named Kate Spade's latest muse for the designer's chic advertising campaign -- now in the pages of fashion magazines everywhere -- Howard's peaches-and-cream visage is also ubiquitous at the nation's cineplexes. First out is The Help, one of this summer's most anticipated movies. Based on Kathryn Stockett's best-selling novel about racial tensions in the South, it opens in August. Come September, Howard supports the bittersweet comedic stylings of A-listers Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anna Kendrick, and Anjelica Huston in 50/50.
Howard plays the bad guy in both movies. Or should we say, bad girl. "Honestly, for an actor it's fun," she tells WebMD the Magazine of taking on polarizing characters. "I was initially hesitant to do The Help, because while it's a wonderful book, it's also rooted in a lot of painful truths ... but I had the greatest time ever working with these women [co-stars Emma Stone and Viola Davis] and playing this character, even if she is a despicable human being."