Academy Award-winning actor Helen Hunt started her acting career when she was just a child in the 1970s. Though she literally grew up on TV, appearing in shows like Swiss Family Robinson and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she's best known for her work as an adult on the hit sitcom Mad About You that ran from 1992 to 1999 and won her Emmy, SAG and Golden Globe awards. Her Oscar for Best Actress came in 1998 when she starred in As Good as It Gets with Jack Nicholson.
We got the opportunity to talk to Hunt about her latest film The Miracle Season, inspired by a true story. Hunt plays high school female volleyball coach Kathy Bresnahan, who after her star player gets killed in a moped accident is tasked with the job of guiding her team back to a place of hope and optimism (and maybe even a win).
It was a daunting task for Hunt, who has an impressive 101 acting credits on IMDb and experience playing characters from all walks of life. "I was afraid of doing a bad job and sucking in the movie," she said. "I always am, and I don't know any actors who aren't. You always start the process [feeling] sure you aren't going to know how to do it. And then little tiny choice by little tiny choice, you put something down."
One of those "little tiny" choices was listening to and learning from the real-life Bresnahan firsthand. "What was helpful was having this giant human being who was my research walk through the door and be willing to talk to me and share photos with me and tell me the smallest details — what it was like to try to lead these women through this incredibly shattered time."
With the Parkland shooting and March For Our Lives just in the rearview mirror, a film about teens navigating an incredibly shattering experience couldn't come at a more appropriate time. But Hunt wants to make one thing clear — while the movie might present an inspiring message about how heartbreak can spur change, "It's time to stop the teenage heartbreak," she says. "Of course we have to help them walk through it, but it's also time to stand up and say enough is enough and put real change into legal action. That’s one way to model for young people how to get better."
The other way Hunt says we can help those going through heartbreak is to allow space for grief and the sharing of stories. According to Hunt, The Miracle Season in particular encourages those hurting to "circle up with other people — other women in this case — and realize none of us can do it alone."
That right there — "none of us can do it alone" — is a thread we've seen in 2018 as girls, women and men work together to make real change and demand a safer, fairer and better world. From the #MeToo movement to Times Up to March For Our Lives, Hunt is here for it all, but what she's most passionate about is women and girls standing up and using their voices to support one another in school and the workplace. "I'm deeply interested in what people are beginning to observe about how women don't keep their hand up in class or allow themselves to be interrupted... The young women I know [...] are looking at how to combat that." And Hunt promises if she's ever in the room when a woman's idea is stolen, "I’ll be the one to say, ‘That was a great idea when she said it.’"
Don't miss Hunt as Coach Brez. She not only gifts us with an incredible performance but brings a true, inspiring story to life with a message. As Hunt says, "You got yourself here. You are loved. You can step forward while grieving and play with joy."
The Miracle Season opens in theaters April 6.
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