Stars of Sundance: Helena Howard

Stars of Sundance: Helena Howard

The actress makes her bold feature film debut in the Sundance critics' pick 'Madeline's Madeline.'

The actress makes her bold feature film debut in the Sundance critics' pick 'Madeline's Madeline.'

Photography: Sharif Hamza

Styling: Andrew Mukamal

Text: Jake Viswanath

This interview appears in the pages of V113, The Music Issue, on newsstands now. Order your copy of the issue today at shop.vmagazine.com

“I feel in every instance of theater or film, you have to draw from yourself,” Helena Howard says about mastering the art of acting. It’s surprising to think that even a sliver of her namesake character in Sundance critical hit Madeline’s Madeline could possibly connect to her own experience. Madeline is extremely intense, switching between passionate and passive, fulfilled and insatiable, aggressive and wistful with a simple flinch. Howard pulls the part off with the physical and emotional gravitas of a seasoned pro, even though the film is her major debut. That’s because there may be more parallels between character and actor than meet the eye.

“She wrote my life, on steroids,” Howard says with a bright laugh, referring to director and writer Josephine Decker, who elevated aspects of Howard’s own personal narrative into a movie so consuming that it’s draining for both Howard and the audience (in the best way possible). Madeline is a budding acting student with the ability to perform jaw-dropping emotion at a moment’s notice, trained under the guidance of a dedicated director and with the baggage of a difficult family situation. Of course, the script was heightened for dramatic effect; Howard is forced to get violent and exhibit mental health issues. “I thought about all the times I’ve fought with my parents or my brother and just went to that place where I actually started getting anxious,” she explains. “I felt the physical agitation. It really was not a place I wanted to be, but as an actor, you have to do what you have to do because it’s your profession; it’s my life and my love.”

HELENA WEARS COACH 1941

Credits: MAKEUP CIARA O’SHEA (LGA), HAIR RUBI JONES (JULIAN WATSON), PRODUCER ASHLEY HERSON, LOCAL PRODUCER KATE HOLLAND, DIGITAL TECHNICIAN CASEY RICHARDSON, PHOTO ASSISTANTS TIM HOFFMAN, SHEN WILLIAMS-COHEN, STYLIST ASSISTANT JERMAINE DALEY, HAIR ASSISTANT MEGAN GORLEY, PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS TOM O’MEARA, RIQUE CARROLL, RETOUCHING HEMPSTEAD MAY, LOCATION PARK CITY PEAKS HOTEL

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