Bryce Dallas Howard expands on The Help: 'Imagination is never better than authenticity'
As audiences seek resources to hear from black voices and learn to practice anti-racism, The Help has been at the forefront of titles that are the wrong way to have that conversation.
The film sparked a backlash after Netflix revealed it had become the number one viewed film on the streaming platform in the wake of protests around the country demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other black people killed by police. One of the film's stars, Bryce Dallas Howard, urged audiences to go further, recommending a list of media to watch instead including Watchmen, Selma, Malcolm X, and Just Mercy.
"Stories are a gateway to radical empathy and the greatest ones are catalysts for action. If you are seeking ways to learn about the Civil Rights Movement, lynchings, segregation, Jim Crow, and all the ways in which those have an impact on us today, here are a handful of powerful, essential, masterful films and shows that center Black lives, stories, creators, and/or performers," she wrote.
While talking to EW about her feature film debut, documentary Dads, Howard further addressed her shifting perception of The Help since appearing in the film. "As a storyteller, what I've learned over time is that imagination is never better than authenticity," she said, reflecting on the fact that The Help was written by a white woman and directed by a white man. "That's why it's so important with casting and in deciding who the filmmaker is going to be and in deciding who the writers are going to be. That is not just about talent. It's also about life experience and a perspective that is authentic. That is true. That's not just imagined."
Howard, who has been expanding her reach in recent years, moving from acting to directing on projects like Dads and The Mandalorian says this also requires storytellers to acknowledge the types of stories they have the right to tell and be comfortable acknowledging what they don't know. "I understand more and more what my skill sets are, what my lane is, what my understanding is and what I don't know," she says. "There's a lot that we know that we don't know. And there's even more that we don't know that we don't know. It's such an important aspect of the craft to acknowledge and to value that the story that is being told is that of the storyteller. Therefore, who is the storyteller? And what are they saying and why?"
Just as Howard pointed fans to a range of films, documentaries, and TV shows created by black artists, she says Hollywood has to look to black voices in much more consistent and meaningful ways. "It's critical we look to our leaders within the black community," she reflects. "Let's see how we can be of support and look to their leadership and guidance and how they're doing it – and contribute."