The Lexingtonienne

July8th

9 Comments

The Help

In case you live under a rock (I’m not judging if you do – home is where the heart is), The Help is a New York Times Bestseller by first-time author and Jackson, MS native Kathryn Stockett. The fictional tale follows three women in 1960s Jackson, MS, who form an unlikely bond when 22-year-old Skeeter, a white woman of privilege, endeavors to publish the real, untold stories of the town’s black housekeepers who work for the white families. While working on the clandestine project, Skeeter becomes close with Aibileen, a wise, kind, and patient black maid now caring for her seventeenth white child, and Aibileen’s best friend Minny, whose short temper and tendency to speak her mind to her bosses has cost her yet another job.

Different chapters are narrated by Skeeter, Aibileen, Minny, and others — so you really feel like you know each character — and it’s the kind of book that sticks with you long after you read the last chapter. Because I was so sad when I finished it, I was thrilled to learn that Dreamworks is producing it as a movie, which will hit theaters next year.

But you don’t have to wait til next year for this special treat, blog readers! A great friend of mine whom I have known for many years, Octavia Spencer, is actually starring in the film, and she has oh-so-graciously agreed to talk to us about the book and about her character, Minny Jackson.

octavia

The Lexingtonienne: The Help has obviously struck a chord with readers across the nation. What resonated with you or affected you most about this book?
Octavia Spencer: Even though it takes place during a time in our nation’s history where race relations were less than stellar, three women of different ethnicities banded together to take a stand against social injustices. The Help is a story about the complexities of relationships and a prime example of the frailties of the human condition. In my opinion, Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter were heroes.

TL: You are listed in the thanks from the author! How did you get yourself on that coveted page?
OS: I was fortunate to be one of the few allowed to read the manuscript before it was published. I loved it so much and read it so fast, that I was able to point out the one or two inconsistencies that I found. And, I also think Kathryn was just extremely generous to include me.
TL: So you are friends with Kathryn Stockett?
OS: I’d heard about her over the years via Tate [Tate Taylor, Octavia's best friend and the screenwriter/director/producer of the film], but we’d never met.  Tate introduced us while we were on a brief vacation in New Orleans. We didn’t know each other well at the time that she was researching and writing the book.

TL: For those who haven’t read the book, how would you describe the character of Minny?
OS: Minny is the one person who actually says what other people are perhaps thinking. She’s no-nonsense, opinionated, sharp-tongued, judgmental, but extremely loyal.

TL: Minny was my favorite character. What appeals to you about her? What do you not like about her?
OS: What I like the most about Minny is the dichotomy of her personal and professional lives. She lives in a constant state of bravado. But while she often speaks her mind and constantly defends herself to her employers, she is unable to do the same in her personal / domestic life.

TL: If you could spend an afternoon with Minny, what would you want to do together?
OS: I would beg her to teach me to cook!

TL: What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge for you as an actor?
OS: The biggest challenge I am facing in playing Minny is the fact that she distrusts anyone who isn’t like herself: poor and black. My collage of friends crosses all racial and socioeconomic boundaries. Also, dealing with the domestic abuse will be a challenge, as it is outside of my frame of reference.

TL: What research are you doing for this role?
OS: I’ve spent countless hours watching documentaries filmed during that time period. It’s been a humbling experience.

TL: I know a lot of the details about the film are hush-hush at this point, but what CAN you tell us? Can you tell us when and where it shoots? Who else is starring? Surely you can tell me a little bit about the director…
OS: The film stars Viola Davis [as Aibileen Clark], Emma Stone [as Skeeter Phelan], and Bryce Dallas Howard [as Hilly Holbrook] and is set to begin shooting this month in Greenwood, MS. Tate Taylor [the film's director, who is also a friend of The Lexingtonienne - hey, Tate!] is a native of Jackson and is an accomplished actor, writer, and an award-winning director. He is also an AMAZING cook! Most of my favorite meals have been at his dinner table. He’s one of the reasons I have this beautiful rotund physique! This film is lucky to have him. On weekends, I’m praying that he will fire up the grill!

TL: What do you hope the film might accomplish?
OS: More than anything, my hope for the film is that it will resonate with viewers as well as the book does with readers. I also hope it “cleans house” at the box office!

Best of luck to Octavia, Tate, and producer / FOTL (Friend of the Lexingtonienne) Brunson Green… and MANY THANKS to Octavia for so kindly chatting with us!

You can buy the book on Amazon, and you can check out more details about the film here. :)

xoxo,

Hannah

9 Comments

  • Comment by HaleyD — July 8, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

    Okay. Convinced. Done. Starting it this weekend. I have not been living under a rock (I have heard of the book), just been a little busy : )

  • Comment by Bonnie Martin — July 8, 2010 @ 8:50 pm

    This book is so good. I recommended it for my book club in Barbados. Belive it or not, this still goes on in the community we lived in Barbados. The housekeeping staff was not allowed to use our restrooms. They would have to go to the specified toilet located at their security break center.

    One of my friends had a housekeeper who was pregnant, so she was always having to go. My friend kept begging her to use the house facilities, but she refused, saying she would be fired for not following the rules.

  • Comment by Shae — July 9, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

    Octavia Spencer is one of the finest actors in Hollywood with one of the most extensive resumes – check her out on IMDb. Trust me, you’ve seen her work! We’re looking forward to another stellar performance. And congratulations to Tate!

  • Comment by Susan Cushman — July 9, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

    I grew up in Jackson (MS) in the 50s and 60s, and I loved “The Help.” It stays true to the essence of the culture and the times. LOVED hearing Octavia and Kathryn “read” (it was more acting) from the book at Lemuria in Jackson last year and I’m so glad Octavia is playing Minny! One question: What part is Ashley Judd playing?

  • Comment by Carol — July 9, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

    Loved the article, Octavia!! You are definitely Minnie!! Thanks! Have fun!

  • Comment by quiltmom( anna) — July 9, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

    I absolutely loved this book- I was mesmerized from the start to the finish of the story. It is so well written. I am looking forward to seeing the movie.
    Regards,
    Anna

  • Comment by octavia — July 11, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

    @susanc.- ashley judd isn’t playing a part in the help. I just finished a film that she is starring in. Sorry for the confusion!

  • Comment by Barbara — July 12, 2010 @ 5:13 am

    Heard about this book last year and then finally read it this spring. I am so grateful to have read this book and was certain they would make a movie of it…and of course they already have. I can only hope that the movie touches people as profoundly as the book. The Help could be a classic. Hope schools make it required reading.

  • Pingback by I TOLD You “The Help” Was Good - The Lexingtonienne — January 24, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

    [...] As some of you may remember (“some of you” referring in particular to Haley and Branch), The Lexingtonienne nabbed an *exclusive* interview with Octavia in July of 2010, just before filming of The Help began. CHECK IT OUT AGAIN RIGHT HERE! [...]

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