Emma Stone and 'The Help' Cast Dish on Filming, Food, and Fried Green Tomatoes

A look back at the making of 'The Help.'
Emma Stone and the stars of 'The Help.' (Photo: WireImage)
Jul 10, 2011
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

The cast and crew of The Help came together in Los Angeles on Saturday and reminisced about their experience of bringing one of the country's most beloved books to life.

Based on Kathryn Stockett's #1 New York Times best-selling novel, The Help—in theaters on August 10—stars a group of powerhouse actresses: Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Sissy Spacek, Jessica Chastain, and Allison Janney.

Set in Jackson, Mississippi, during the Civil Rights movement, The Help chronicles the relationship between three  extraordinary women who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project that breaks societal rules.

The film was shot in a small Mississippi town and, over the weekend, the cast shared a few things they remember about their experience.

"Oh, the food," Allison Janney said. "There were fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried catfish, fried everything" and a condiment called "comeback sauce." 

This special sauce, she said, "Is basically every condiment put into one and it's the most delicious thing. You slather it on everything.

In the movie, the food takes on a character of its own. There are caramel cakes, fruit pies, fried chicken, deviled eggs, and many more Southern dishes that are sure to make your mouth water.

Director Tate Taylor is from Mississippi and grew up with author Kathryn Stockett. For him, shooting there was a must.

It's summertime in the movie and filming took place in August when temperatures reached well over 100 degrees.

The heat, Sissy Spacek said with a laugh, was "pungent." Despite the warm temperatures, she said she's always been drawn to the South. "I have a love for Southern characters," she said. Sissy plays Bryce Dallas Howard's mother in the film. Bryce plays Hilly Holbrook, the manipulative queen bee of the Jackson, Mississippi, women's social network.

A glimpse of the set. (Photo: Dale Robinette/DreamWorks)

"There is so much freedom in playing a character that doesn't need to be appealing or likable," Bryce said.

However, she added, "I wanted to leave everything about this character the instant that everyone said cut."

Emma Stone plays Skeeter, the aspiring young writer more interested in her career than in marriage. She inspires Viola Davis (Aibileen) and Octavia Spencer (Minny) to share stories of what it's like to work as maids for white families in the 1960s.

"In this film," Emma said, "I was able to learn about a part of history that was incredibly important and hugely informative to where we are now and that is still being struggled with now. The way it helped me to grow as a person is irreplaceable."

Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis. (Photo: Dale Robinette/DreamWorks)

Reading about Jim Crow laws and life in Mississippi in the early 1960s were big parts of the research process for her, as was learning the Mississippi dialect. "It's wild; it's like you have this filter in your head and you have to go through that," she said.

Viola Davis added speaking in a different dialect is "like patting your head and rubbing your stomach."

Emma said she fell in love with the character of Skeeter for several reasons. One of them was because she wanted to be a journalist when she was a kid.

Each of the actresses felt strongly about the themes of courage and strength in the film, as did recording artist Mary J. Blige. She wrote and recorded the end-credit song, "The Living Proof." One of the things that stood out to her in the film, she said, was the message of "walking in love."

From DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment, in association with Participant Media and Imagenation Abu Dhabi, comes the drama The Help. Participant Media is TakePart's parent company.

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