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Paige Howard

Age: 21

Currently: Making her professional acting debut as the otherworldly title character in the Vineyard Theatre's revival of J.M. Barrie's 1920 drawing room comedy/ghost story Mary Rose.

Hometown: Greenwich, Connecticut. Howard is one of four children of superstar director and former actor Ron Howard and his writer wife, Cheryl. Fun fact: All four kids were named after places they were conceived, from older sister Bryce Dallas Howard Texas, Paige Carlyle and her twin sister, Jocelyn Carlyle the swanky Manhattan hotel, to little brother Reed Cross a street the Howards lived on. "Isn't that crazy?" the bubbly actress says with a laugh. "What were they thinking?" When it's noted that her place of, um, origin would be a great for a wedding, Howard says, "I went there for my eighteenth birthday and had hot chocolate with my best friend. Halfway through, we were like, 'All right, let's go now!'"

Keeping It Real: The elder Howards raised their kids worlds away from the Hollywood spotlight, and Paige's open, down-to-earth manner is their reward. "I'm forever grateful to my parents for that," she says, peppering her conversation with lots and lots of reallys—as in "I was really, really lucky to get this part," "My mom is a really, really special person" and "My sister is really, really supportive." The Howard name brings pressure, she says, "only because I'm really proud of what my family has achieved. It's more a sense of appreciation rather than pressure."

The Family Business: In spite of his history as a child star, Ron Howard insisted his daughter take her time before launching her career, setting two rules, according to Paige: "I couldn't act professionally until I was 18, and school had to be a priority." Only the chance to play a lead at a top off-Broadway company under the direction of Tina Landau convinced her folks to let Paige take a semester off from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. "My parents said, 'This is absolutely a one-time thing,'" she says, mimicking a stern tone of voice. "I was shocked that they let me do it."

Sibling Revelry: Howard is happily following in the footsteps of big sister Bryce, who also got her start on stage playing Emily in Our Town at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, Rosalind in As You Like It at the Public and Mariane in Tartuffe on Broadway while attending NYU. "We have zero rivalry," says Paige, who shares Bryce's striking red hair and fair complexion. The biggest lesson she's learned from her sibling, who went on to big-screen fame in The Lady in the Water and just gave birth to a baby son, Theo: "Enjoy what you're doing at that moment and don't worry about what comes next."

Have You Seen a Ghost? Howard's charming sincerity grounds Mary Rose, in which she plays a girl whose disappearance and reappearance from an island causes ripples of mystery that reverberate through her extended family for several generations. "I thought it was a beautiful story," she says. "J.M. Barrie has such a gift for capturing simple human emotions in a way that's really timeless. When I read it, I was touched by something I couldn't quite put my finger on. I think that as we get older, we can get so wrapped up in what's going on day to day that we forget about the things that meant a lot to us when we were younger. It's about the human spirit, about letting go of certain things and accepting change."

All for One: The Mary Rose company embraced Howard immediately, she says with gratitude. "I was shaking in my boots when I walked into rehearsal the first day," she admits, "but everyone made an extra effort to make sure I didn't feel intimidated." It helps, of course, that her parents are being played by two of New York's best character actors, Michael Countryman and Betsy Aidem. "They've made the experience incredible for me," she says, adding, "What I love most about acting is the collaboration with other people and the direct contact with the audience. My greatest ambition is to dabble in every single aspect of the entertainment business, because it's the only business where you can do what you love until the day you die. It's a business that really caters to dreams."

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