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How Bryce Dallas Howard And DeWanda Wise’s Jurassic World Dominion Characters Represented Better Female Representation In The Franchise

From the very beginning of the the Jurassic universe, a strong female presence has quite frequently been built into the framework of the adventures that would follow. Iconically starting with Laura Dern’s Dr. Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park, the representation of women in this franchise evolved over time, keeping the story fresh and exciting. With the 2022 movie release Jurassic World Dominion, this very sentiment reached a fantastic point. In particular, through the continued reinvention of Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing, as well as the debut of DeWanda Wise’s newcomer Kayla Watts, both helped the cause in unique ways that only further enrich the potential future of the franchise's landscape.

DeWanda Wise raises her taser while standing in the underground market in Jurassic World Dominion.

(Image credit: Universal)

What Kayla Watts Meant To Jurassic World Fans, According To DeWanda Wise

Introducing a new character into a series like Jurassic World is daunting, no matter when it happens or who you’re talking about. Starting with Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing, Colin Trevorrow’s trilogy of legacy-quels has continued to expand the world beyond the gates of the ill-fated end to John Hammond’s ultimate vision. Jurassic World Dominion added that challenge on top of another, already established feat it had to accomplish: it needed to close out 30 years of Jurassic legacy with a fitting bang. 

DeWanda Wise understood that from day one, and I was able to learn it myself when sitting down with her and Bryce Dallas Howard. In celebration of the home entertainment release of Dominion, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment held a junket in Malta, which is the exact location where we meet the intrepid Kayla Watts for the first time. When reflecting on how this character build on the legacy of strong women in dinosaur-related survival situations, DeWanda shared the following thoughts with CinemaBlend:

I think from the very moment that the very first images of Kayla Watts dropped online, and the reception from the fans, which was always loving. They wanted Kayla to be great. Everyone wanted Kayla to be great, and I don’t think you necessarily get that with every franchise. It’s just such a special, iconic inclusive [experience]. Everyone loves dinosaurs, everybody wants you to win. So every step of the way, I continue to have those experiences, and I look forward to 30 years from now, seeing what comes of it. It’s very special.

Just as the actress pointed out above, Kayla Watts was indeed a fan favorite character upon the release of Jurassic World 3. Possessing a healthy sense of humor, and an appreciation for redheads that helped her bond with Owen Grady, the black market pilot-turned-hero made a huge impression in such a short time. Perhaps even more powerful than the fan response to Kayla's Jurassic debut is that of DeWanda Wise’s family.

In particular, the merchandising made a beautiful connection between the actor and her family. DeWanda Wise would go on to explain the major significance of one special toy she’s heard some adorable feedback for, as follows: 

Getting a text message from my brother. My niece just being like, she has the LEGO. We grew up on LEGO, we were always playing LEGO Barbie. So now my niece Aalyah now has an 'auntie LEGO.' That’s wild.

Kayla Watts is a character that succeeded in a place where few others have: she was a much-hyped new addition to the team that lived up to the marketing, and then some. Of course, Jurassic World Dominion isn’t just about forging the future, it’s also meant to pay a fond farewell to characters like Claire Dearing. 

In that respect, Bryce Dallas Howard’s own words highlight just how far this character has come through the span of all three Jurassic World movies. And yes, “the heels” do come up in our next portion of discussion. 

Bryce Dallas Howard looks up in fear as she activates a switch in Jurassic World Dominion.

(Image credit: Universal)

How Claire Dearing Has Evolved With Jurassic World, According To Bryce Dallas Howard

I still remember a time when some thought Claire Dearing was somehow going to be connected to John Hammond in the Jurassic World legacy. Being introduced to an all-white clad figure of park management who’s ready to push the boundaries can kind of do that; but thankfully, the sentiment that I and other fans had expressed about Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire came true in all the right ways. 

Much like DeWanda Wise, Bryce Dallas Howard had Claire pegged from frame one, and it only helped enhance her journey to Jurassic World Dominion. Drawing on the changes we’ve seen her character go through, Howard recalled having similar thoughts, and seeing them evolve in a way that she appreciated with the following commentary:

For me, it’s been so wonderful to play a character that when you first meet her, you’re basically like, ‘Oh, that’s the villain, and she’s gonna get eaten by a dinosaur.’ And then to watch her learn and grow, and yet still make mistakes, and then realize that that was a mistake … I really appreciate the kind of head space that [Claire’s] gotten into in her life.

The Claire Dearing of Jurassic World certainly isn’t the one we see at the end of Dominion. Through that first walk through the park and, in the subsequent sequels, Bryce Dallas Howard’s workaholic woman with no interests in having a family has shifted her worldview. Fighting to save and preserve the dinosaurs she once oversaw as “assets,” as well as acting as a mother to Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), Claire’s transformation into a compassionate crusader has been one of the great treats in the Jurassic World saga. 

But what’s a look back on Claire’s life and times without talking about “the heels?” An infamous sticking point in the 2015 trilogy opener was the fact that Bryce Dallas Howard’s protagonist could run in heels, while being chased by dinosaurs. And it's something people still single out to this day. While Howard put the issue to rest a long time ago, those comments do tie into how she feels Dominion represents the evolution of the story, as well as her character’s wardrobe. As you’ll read in the next section of our conversation, she’s still very much a good sport about the matter: 

I’ve noticed, because when [Jurassic World] came out, it was a lot of like ‘Heels, heels, heels. And heels, and heels, and heels.” … I think that the way in which this franchise has evolved, the rich history and legacy that comes with it being a Michael Crichton story, and the more hard hitting sci-fi elements. The moral dilemmas and all of that, it’s a cautionary tale. The ways in which that storytelling has affected audiences, and in particular children, that has been so, so incredibly meaningful to me. The way in which this character represents a person who can learn, who can change, who can grow and shows that doesn't mean they’re perfect, that they keep trying. I love that, I really really love that. And I also love that I depicted a character who can totally outrun a T-Rex in heels, because I feel like I probably could?

In her own way, Claire Dearing was the John Hammond of Jurassic World. This especially works when drawing the parallel of how she starts off as a person who believed in the illusion of control, but eventually growing a heart and working with the dinosaurs’ best interests in mind. Ditching heels for hiking boots, we even got to see the actress who plays her go full action hero with some of the stunts we saw her pull in Jurassic World Dominion. It's truly a far cry from trying to pitch Hal, Jim, and Erica on sponsorship for the Indominous Rex.

Dominion represents the end of co-writer/director Colin Trevorrow’s turn at the wheel of Michael Crichton’s cautionary tale of creation. Thanks to characters like Kayla Watts and Claire Dearing, DeWanda Wise and Bryce Dallas Howard have made their unique marks on this era of Jurassic history. Wherever the franchise goes from this point, should it progress, will only be better served by this continued foundation of vital female forces of nature that have helped this story find a way into the hearts and minds of the world. 

You can experience that story for yourself, as Jurassic World Dominion is currently available for rental or purchase, in both the theatrical and newly released extended version. Or, if you’re looking to stream the film as a Peacock Premium subscriber, you can wait until those cuts debut on the platform starting September 2nd.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.