INTERVIEW: Helena Howard Discusses Amazon Studios’ ‘The Wilds,’ Its Diversity, What Attracted Her to the Series, and Nora’s Secret
Helena Howard plays Nora Reid in the Amazon Original series The Wilds, and we spoke to her all about the hit new series and her role in the drama.
Nora Reid is a shy, caring scholar who’s had a hard time fitting in among her peers. She may seem meeker and more reserved than her fraternal twin, Rachel, but she’s the secret strength in their relationship.
The Amazon Original series The Wilds is a dystopic survival drama series that follows a group of teen girls stranded on a deserted island after their plane crashes. With the girls having such different personalities and coming from diverse backgrounds, they have to find their own way of surviving together as a group. The big twist? The plane crash was no accident.
Read our exclusive interview with Helena Howard to find out her reaction to the series being renewed, the message she hopes female viewers gain from The Wilds, as well as her thoughts on diversity, representation, and self-love.
GLITTER: The Wilds is such a different show from what is currently on TV. What attracted you to the project?
HELENA: Well, yeah, I think this question comes up, and I think the answer is the same. It’s everyone’s story, you know, and it’s so different, and there are so many different walks of life, there- it’s the teenage experience that there is no one teenage experience. And I mean, you have Leah as the narrator who’s sort of like guiding you through what it’s like to be a teenager, but when it comes down to it, and you strip it down, you have, Native Americans on- and on who live on the reservation camp– and then you have twin sisters who couldn’t be any more different, who come from a very sophisticated, posh life in Long Island. And then you have the Texans, who are the total opposite, like the Texas showing you different walks of life in Texas and then the San Francisco Bay Area, right. And but not just one life of what it’s like to live in San Francisco. You have Fatin (Sophia Ali), who’s Pakistani and Muslim, right, and her life and what it’s like. And it’s so difficult to, you know, just live with those pressures as a teenager and anyone, and especially as a woman. And with these societal pressures, so I think, yeah, it is something so different and new, and no one really talks about the real issues or difficulties that, you know, a teenage girl or boy goes through. I mean, they touch upon them, but then it becomes very taboo because it is and it’s societally still like, “oh, we can’t really talk about r*pe, or we can’t really talk about eating disorders, or mental illness.”
We have so many months to bring awareness to these causes, but we can never really talk about them because they’re still so stigmatized. Then we have so many communities to embrace people, but why can’t we just embrace people for who they are? And I think- I really- you know, that is the biggest thing about this, because, you have so many people from different places, but then you put them on an island, and you strip away who they’re trying to be and the pressure. And here, they can’t– in the beginning, they’re still trying to be whoever they are were, but as we’re progressing along, they can’t- they can’t fake it anymore because it doesn’t have to be whoever they are and figure that out along the way with everyone else as well. And that’s beautiful, I think.
GLITTER: Do you share any qualities with Nora, and what was your favorite part of exploring her character?
HELENA: I think I do definitely share some qualities with Nora. I wrote in my notebook, actually, that we’re both unforgettably forgettable, whatever that-, but yeah. She’s your avid reader. I love to read. I wouldn’t say, you know, I read as much as she does. She observes. She takes in her surroundings. Something that I do that for in my personal life, but also for my acting. Very important to observe and listen and see what’s going on. It is. Yeah, I mean, she- she really helped me grow so much, like tremendously. Before taking on this role, I hated the sound of birds chirping because, in our old house, there were nests. There was like a tree, and there was a nest of birds, and they would chirp. And I would only be reminded of being in a Disney movie. And I’m like, “I’m not a princess. I’m not in a Disney film. Shut up, birds. Like, Why are you always chirping?” But with being Nora, she loves birds. And she has a book of In the Northern Guide of Most American Birds, and even being on location, I would watch the birds because she likes sandpipers, and they are very interesting creatures, as are all beings. I love crows, but now I don’t have a problem with birds chirping because that’s their way of communicating. That’s how they speak. Like we have a language, but their language- and yeah, after observing them, yeah, that’s what I thought. But, there are other things through being Nora that I definitely learned.
GLITTER: What was your reaction when you found out the truth about Nora working with Gretchen? Do you think she had any real idea of all they would go through?
HELENA: No, I mean, OK, so when I found out, I found out during the pilot. Which was in 2018, so I knew for quite some time. I’m playing it the whole time. Yeah, that’s like a- that’s a big thing, you know. You’re acting when you’re acting. And no, Norah definitely did not understand the extent of which they– anything, you know. Gretchen (Rachel Griffiths) didn’t explain what this social experiment was going to entail. She just said, “Do you want to save your sister?” And Nora’s like, “oh, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. Yes, of course, I do.” Would you want to save someone on the verge of killing themselves? Yeah. And so Gretchen definitely manipulated her. Yeah, so she just- I mean, Gretchen sought out the girls, she definitely knew who she was going to bring on this island, and for what reason. I think– I’m speaking personally, I think she brought Toni (Erana James), but Martha (Jenna Clause) was kind of like a casualty, like, “Oh yeah, this is your friend. So we’re just going to like, bring her along.” Yeah, thanks. We figure out some information about her bringing her, you know, but yeah. It’s-Its… These are the ways of the world.
GLITTER: In the second episode, we hear Rachel ask if their parents know what happened to Nora. Is there a reason we don’t see Nora getting interviewed like all of the other girls?
HELENA: OK, I’ve had some crazy theories. Perhaps, Nora is on a different island. If she isn’t dead, it’s– OK, but this is the thing that people forget: we still have to film the rest of the island time because that was only up to day twenty-three. Yeah, so who knows what the fire and the rest of the days and leading up to the girls’ rescue?
GLITTER: The episode centered around your character also served as the finale; what was your favorite part of filming that?
HELENA: I really loved everything with Quinn. Because it really shows what Nora had gone through. I was going through with- while going through this stuff with Rachel (Reign Edwards) like what led up to her needing direction and all of the island and everything, like what led them to be on the island. Yes. Like, if all of this had never happened, their lives would not have met these other lives. So it’s very interesting how everything happened. Yes, that’s saying everything happens for a reason, and her meeting Quinn and him being such a special person- but then Rachel is, at that, even more of a special person, that the bond is unbreakable. And like if anyone says anything about her, it’s- it’s done, even if it hurts her. Yeah, which is just heartbreaking because she’s missing out on her own happiness and her own life to keep someone else alive, which so many of us do.
GLITTER: The last we see of Nora is her running into the water to save her sister from a shark; what was your reaction to reading that ending?
HELENA: I mean, OK, so. We were just like, “What? This is crazy.” And initially, they had me swimming out and like, looking for her? Oh, my God, we found this tape when we’re– I’m in a– in the wave pool, and like they’re creating new wave stuff, and I’m like, “Rachel! Rachel! Oh, I can’t find her, she’s missing,” or whatever, because it was pretty crazy that whole day. But yeah, they cut that because maybe they were like, “this doesn’t- we need to leave people more.”
GLITTER: Will we see what happens after that scene in the next season? Also, what do you think will happen now that Leah knows Nora’s secret?
HELENA: Yeah, I know, it’s like, “Whoa, this happened at the worst time.” I think Nora or Gretchen or her henchmen, her flying monkeys, and they might be something like maybe make it look like Leah’s (Sarah Pidgeon) crazy. She already has done stuff to be crazy. But then, as we see in Shelby’s (Mia Healey) episode, she gives her the note that says ‘you’re right.’ So maybe, yes, they’re all like, “Oh damn. We should have believed you, girl. You weren’t so crazy after all!” I mean, I was just going to say, Leah was definitely coming for Nora.
GLITTER: What was your reaction when you found out that the show was renewed for season two?
HELENA: It was crazy. Not- not crazy – I mean, it was because I wasn’t around the phone. I don’t like being near the phone, really, so I was a bit delayed in finding out. And then I saw it, and I was like, “Oh, wow, this is very exciting.” And we were like- it was like, ‘Oh, more to find out, you know, keep it very quiet,” and then three hours later, it’s all over social media. You know, “Amazon’s The Wild from Prime, says “Oh you know we’re renewed for a season two,'” and all of these tags, and I’m like, “What?” I thought we were supposed to-. I guess this is keeping this quiet.
GLITTER: if you could pick your storyline, what would be your dream season two storyline for Nora?
HELENA: I mean, I don’t know. I don’t really have a dream about it because it’s really from Sarah. It’s her mind, and it’s her imagination, the creating– creation, and I mean the process in which we got the script, that was so interesting and crazy. This was crazy. It was kind of like our own social experiment where we would wait to get the script kind of like a week before starting to shoot or, kind of not a week, but like, a day. We’re going through the next episode or maybe even a week or so, yeah. It was like we were having to wait to see what was happening next. And we were sort of living in that– we were our own audience if that makes sense? We’re going along with the story, which was a different way of creating. So right now, I’m just in that same process.
GLITTER: What do you think being on the island taught Nora?
HELENA: Definitely taught her how to be her own person. I think it taught her resilience. I think it’s taught a lot of them resilience, and it offered a lense, a therapeutic lens, a way to see themselves as a person, rather than a label or something or someone, or somebody. They’re- they’re an actual person. So, for Nora and all of the girls, I think it is helpful to strip away any layers that were attached.
GLITTER: If you were stuck on a deserted island, who would you want to be stuck with you, and what item would you bring with you?
HELENA: I would want a survivalist, and I would bring different seeds.
GLITTER: What has the positive response from fans of the show meant to you?
HELENA: It’s been crazy. It’s– look, I think it’s great that people can connect and relate to something, especially nowadays. It’s kind of hard to find something, especially now in our quote, “New Normal.” It’s not a new normal because, you know- yeah, no, let’s not normalize this. And it seems hard, but when you can relate to real people living in an isolated situation where you are in an isolated situation, I think that’s f*cking fantastic. Yes. And I’ve seen so many talented people, artists especially, there are so many artists that you see on the internet, and it’s just really sad that they still cannot be used more because of our current situation, as well as because of the lockdowns and social distancing. And I just- I think it’s great that people feel connected, but I don’t want people to have a false sense of connection at the same time.
GLITTER: Anything you can tease about season two? Will you be filming it soon?
HELENA: Not yet.
GLITTER: What message do you hope this series sends to female viewers?
HELENA: That its OK to be a girl. You know, you can look the way that you do, and it’s OK. There are so many beauty standards and expectations, and we’re not always going to meet those because they’re not real. But you know that you’re beautiful because you’re a person, you know? Everyone is beautiful. And no matter what you look like, it really doesn’t matter. It comes down to who you are, and that light shines more than anything. And we all experience sh*t in life. And– I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of days: the human experience. What is the human experience? And there is not one human experience like we all experience so many experiences. But, not any one of those experiences is gonna be the same. However, we can relate to those experiences in some way because we’ve all experienced something similar in some way, shape, or form. So to be apathetic and, you know, not sympathetic, and it’s very cruel, and we should learn to be more empathetic. I just want the females and even the males to know it’s OK to be vulnerable because we all feel, and it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or weak. It just means that you are real. You’re like any other person, and you have feelings.
GLITTER: The series had a very diverse cast, which was beautiful to see; what do you think the industry needs to work on to ensure inclusivity?
HELENA: Yep, so, I think nowadays, I don’t know. Everyone doesn’t look the same, and to see that on-screen, like that’s great. But to see a repeat of the same few people I know look the same, and have the same hair color, have the same eye color, have the same complexion. It’s boring. And people catch on to that after a while, and it’s like– it’s not representative of the actual population or the makeup of who we see in our day-to-day lives. But then to see that in the media, or advertisement, or what have you, it’s like, “What are you trying to shove down our throats? What are you trying to make me swallow? What pill are you, you know, making me take that I don’t want.” So in a show like this, it’s like showing you the truth, essentially, and some people might not like it, but it’s like- Yeah.
GLITTER: Representation is important, and this show hit the nail on the head when it comes to that. How did you feel working on a project that celebrated that?
HELENA: Being on a show that represents women of various backgrounds, ethnic groups, heights, body builds, and much more felt exciting and overwhelming at times. To be included in a story that is all-encompassing of everyone’s story made it so that there wasn’t a “token” character, which is nice because you feel more human in the storytelling process. The show was great at showcasing every girl’s diverse traits, where it never felt like someone else was more important than the other. And yes, these girls have all had their fair share of trauma. However, you would never know that without the flashbacks showing what their lives were previous to the accident. At the same time, you want to make sure you are telling these stories as true as you can, without it coming off forced, produced, or even “acted.” It was thrilling to be in those moments.
GLITTER: Did you learn anything about yourself during quarantine?
HELENA: Hahaha! YES! I am sure everyone has made some new discoveries about themselves AND others during these times. I mean, HOW CAN YOU NOT? These have been times of solitude, isolation, and distance. If you really take the time to be with ‘ONE’s SELF,’ what does that actually mean? For me, I think the biggest thing I learned and am STILL LEARNING is that it is OK to be by myself, to sit with myself, to be alone, and yet know that I am not alone. And just because I feel lonely doesn’t mean that I am actually alone either. It’s a lot of distinguishing between these two feelings, knowing that they are separate and not the same, especially during a time when it feels so “lonely” or” alone”—seeing how the circumstances influence the feelings.
GLITTER: What is your go-to pick for movie night?
HELENA: I don’t have a go-to! We usually switch it up and like to see what’s out there or watch an oldie-but-a-goodie.
GLITTER: Favorite show you watched over quarantine?
HELENA: That’s kind of hard. Gosh, there has been SO much; how can anyone have a FAVORITE??? I mean, Bridgerton was pretty good. LOVE The Boys, Season 2, and WAYNE. F*ck yeah, WAYNE! Definitely WAYNE!
GLITTER: Last song you listened to that you felt you could relate to?
HELENA: Bjork: “It’s In Our Hands”
GLITTER: Glitter has a celebrity #SelfLoveCampaign. What does self-love mean to you?
HELENA: What does Self-Love mean to me? I think I’m still finding this out. It’s a process, a very long process of self-discovery, and learning how to truly be comfortable with myself as I am, who I am, what I am—and how, where, and when I am can directly impact “the self.” Self-Love can also entail caring for oneself, showing and giving love to yourself, “treating” yourself, and knowing that it is OK to love yourself for the person you are.
GLITTER: Do you have any new projects coming up that you can share?
HELENA: I do have some projects in the works that I am VERY EXCITED about and looking forward to. Right now, I don’t think I can say anything other than, hopefully, we can get to work on SOMETHING SOON!!
GLITTER: What are the best social media platforms for fans to follow you?
HELENA: Uhm, just have Instagram.