Bryce Dallas Howard Honors Modern Fatherhood With Heartwarming Documentary 'Dads'

Just in time for Father's Day, Bryce Dallas Howard created the moving documentary Dads on Apple TV+.

Bryce Dallas Howard Dads
Photo: Courtesy Apply TV+

If you haven’t yet caught actor-director Bryce Dallas Howard’s moving documentary Dads on Apple TV+, add it to your must-watch list. Through interviews with both “regular” guys and celebs like Jimmy Kimmel and Will Smith, the film explores what our own fathers mean to us and how fatherhood has changed. Surprisingly, the actress' dad, screen legend Ron Howard, didn’t inspire the film. A short clip she shot of her grandfather years ago planted the idea of a longer film in her head. Then her brother, Reed Howard, learned he would soon be a dad, and she decided it was the perfect time to move forward with the project.

”I shot Dads on the weekends while working on the first season of The Mandalorian,” says Howard, mom of Theodore, 13, and Beatrice, 8, with actor husband Seth Gabel. Filming the documentary, she says, helped inform the Disney+ megahit about a bounty hunter hired to kidnap and surrender a creature that he instead raises himself. “On the Mandalorian set I’d be like, ‘You know, Conan O’Brien said this really interesting thing about what it takes to be a father.’ ” Moments she captured for Dads helped her imbue the Star Wars series (she directed episode 4) with heart. As the launch of season 2 approaches this October, with Howard once again directing, we asked her to share more about her deep dive into dad world.

Why tell stories of awesome dads?

“There’s been a huge societal transformation in fathering, and I didn’t feel that it was being depicted in books and on TV. Dads in my life, like my husband, my father, my brother, and the godfather of my kids, (voice of Olaf) Josh Gad, are incredibly committed, so in love with their family," she says. "I remember my husband holding our son, Theo, in the hospital, whispering into his ear, ‘Anything is possible.’ Just saying these beautiful things to him, moments after his birth. Seth had instant instincts.”

How did you select the dads you feature?

“We started in the daddy blogger community, which is a new phenomenon. Then we found an institute in Brazil that focuses on destigmatizing fathers being hands-on in that country, so we located one of the men through that," Howard explains. "Then one of the producers found a comic that was written about a father in Japan, and that’s how we found the stay-at-home dad we show there. I really wish we could have shared more stories. I’m just so in love with all these guys, honestly.”

How does Dads connect to the Star Wars saga?

The Mandalorian is a father-and-son story. It’s an individual becoming a caregiver. I was always talking about parenthood with creator [director of Elf and The Lion King] Jon Favreau. A lot of the comedy, the dynamic between Mando and The Child, is similar to footage from daddy bloggers.”

How can we all better support dads?

“Through paternity leave and in praising men for being more than workers. There shouldn’t be a stigma in saying, ‘Right, you’re leaving early to have dinner with your family,’" Howard says. "By telling stories of engaged, present, heroic dads, it will be easier for society to emulate and expect that.”

This interview appears in the August 2020 issue of Parents Magazine.

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