Tate Taylor and Octavia Spencer have a special insight into THE HELP. The novel on which Taylor based his script, which he also directed, was written by his lifelong friend, Kathryn Stockett. Spencer was Taylor’s roommate when she got to know Stockett, and was the inspiration for the character she plays in the film, Minnie. When I spoke to the duo on July 11, 2011 at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco, we talked about the team effort that worked to bring the the novel to publication, as well as a similar team effort that brought it to the screen. We moved on to reliving the past by proxy, the worst kind of evil, the kind that thinks its doing the right thing, and an unconventional choice for a book report Taylor made in high school that is reflected, albeit briefly, in the film.
THE HELP is s a story about courage, trust, and justice, some of it perversely poetic. Spencer plays Minnie, a domestic in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi who, like her fellow black domestics in that time and place, suffers countless humiliations large and small at the hands of her employers in the land of Jim Crow, but unlike most of them, Minnie takes bold steps to procure a kind of justice that could result in prison or worse. The film co-stars Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Sissy Spacek, Bryce Dallas Howard, Mary Steenburgen, Allison Janney, Jessica Chastain, and Cicely Tyson. Taylor directed from his own script. He and Spencer met while both were production assistants on the film A TIME TO KILL after which they both lighted out for Hollywood. Spencer’s previous work includes collaborating with THE HELP’s co-star, Viola Davis, in a short she wrote and directed, THE UNFORGIVING MINUTE.