It’s been a long time coming for director Tate Taylor and author Kathryn Stockett, but now the day is finally upon them. A couple of years ago Stockett could only dream that her novel “The Help” would get a great deal of attention. Now here she is, just a mere few hours away from the release of the movie based off her bestselling fictional novel. She must be overwhelmed with joy over all of this and has been for awhile. When your best friend directs the movie based off your book, you know it’s in capable and trusting hands. Let’s refresh your memory on the story line for “The Help” if you’re slightly unfamiliar with it:

Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) is a middle-aged African-American maid who has spent her life raising white children and has recently lost her only son. Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is an African-American maid whose outspokenness has gotten her fired many times and built up a reputation for being a difficult employee. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) is a young white woman who has recently moved back home after graduating from the University of Mississippi [4] to find that her beloved childhood maid has mysteriously disappeared. These three stories intertwine to explain how life in early-1960s’ Jackson, Mississippi revolves around “the help”; yet despite the intimate quarters in which whites and blacks live, there is always a certain distance between them because of racial lines.

Tate Taylor and Kathryn Stockett sit down with us for a bit to talk to us and to each other about the conception of “The Help,” how it eventually made its way to film and how much of it is based off what they saw with their own eyes in the South.

ShockYa: Was it because of your history that you really felt you could trust Tate with your material?

Kathryn Stockett: I mean in retrospect, absolutely, but at the time I was a little nervous. About the rights and we have different versions of the story of how it came to be. (Laughs) Tate said… the thing that really kind of broke me, and it wasn’t like a huge argument that we had about whether he would make the movie. What really got under my skin was he said, ‘Katy if you don’t give me the rights to “The Help” some kind of Hollywood type or I mean God knows like a Canadian (Laughs) might will get them and chances are they will try to make this movie and they’ll get scared and it will sit on the shelf and it’ll never be made.’ And I think you (Tate) were right cause’ you pushed through a lot of walls to get it made.

Tate Taylor: Yeah absolutely. If you think about it, you gave me the rights in June of 2008 and three years later (that was before the book was out) it was written, the book came out, and the movie’s finished. That’s quick. Yeah, I wanted to try to scare you — maybe I was trying to scare you a little bit. (Laughs) But I’ve just been out here and you hear of these great projects…I think “The Secret History” that’s one you had always talked about…

Kathryn Stockett: That’s right.

Tate Taylor: I think that’s one that as you know they put expensive writers on and then people don’t like it and then they bring on another expensive writer and all these people get involved and gets whittled. I just didn’t want that to happen.

the help curlers

Kathryn Stockett: Well there was another very well known writer and studio that was trying to get the rights and you (Tate) told me how many projects that they had sitting on the shelf. They love to take great books, buy the rights, and never make the movie.

Tate Taylor: And I just thought that this is so potentially sticky and scary for Hollywood that…

Kathryn Stockett: Well also I knew that you would make it in Mississippi.

ShockYa: When you were writing this was the movie playing in your head or was that not even a thought?

Tate Taylor: Ohhh, don’t say the “M” word. (laughter)

Kathryn Stockett: I don’t go to the movies.

Tate Taylor: She doesn’t.

Kathryn Stockett: The last movie I saw in the theatre was “Seabiscuit.”

Tate Taylor: And she’s not kidding. She doesn’t watch movies.

Kathryn Stockett: Mmmmm, I don’t. I read! So no. But while I was writing the manuscript and Tate was reading it he kept saying, ‘Oh good, in this scene we’ll do this…’ And I kept going, ‘Tate it’s not a movie – it’s a book!’ I didn’t even have an agent and you (Tate) said, ‘Well listen when you shoot this scene…’ We’re just very different writers. But it was really exciting to hand this project over to Tate because I knew he’d get it. We grew up in the same circumstances. It’s amazing how parallel our lives were. Both of our mom’s were divorced.

Tate Taylor: Our mom’s were Celia’s. Honestly they were not accepted in Jackson society at all. We both saw the pain that it caused them.

Kathryn Stockett: So the woman that we would come home to was the black woman that was working for our mom’s because our mom’s were working in an office.

Tate Taylor: It was a different dynamic because my mom and Carol the woman that raised me – who’s also in the movie when Aibileen comes into the church and says, ‘who are we clapping for?’ and the woman says; ‘They’re clapping for you’ that’s the woman that raised me. But she and my mom had a really great relationship, I mean they…

Kathryn Stockett: That was more of a partnership.

the help party

Tate Taylor: Yeah, but that was like Celia and Minny. My mom was a single mom trying to support me being a real estate agent and three months went by and she had not sold anything. Luckily it was at that age where franks and beans is gourmet so she just kept opening up the cans. But she had Carol. Carol was a single mom with three kids and it was really cool because Carol would take care of me and sometimes mom would take care of Carol’s kids. They would come spend the night with us one weekend. So it was different. It was the South and the African American care giver but more of the Celia/Minny relationship. So that’s what spoke to me in the book was that bond between like Mae Mobley and Aibileen and then that going against the grain relationship – which is still against the grain – a black woman and a white woman being friends in ‘70s and just taking care of each other. But I know my mom – if you print this she’ll kill me. She had her hysterectomy and Carol came and lived in her house and took care of her for a week and then Carol had hers and mom did the same. So it was really cool – but don’t tell that one. Please.

Kathryn Stockett: It was much more of a hierarchy. After school I went to my grandmother’s house and it was her maid and my grandmother grew up in Shanghai. So she’s American but she understood class and enunciation and that the maid did this and that she was the woman of the house. So that was a different dynamic. But still, we just, you know, we came home to that face and those arms around us.

ShockYa: Was there anything in the book that you (Tate) took out that you (Katy) wanted to keep in?

Kathryn Stockett: No, he’d get so paranoid that I was going to get mad at him that he’d call me and say, ‘I’m not putting this in! I’m not putting that damn naked man in there!’

Tate Taylor: You know my sensibilities and dark humor I would love to have a pecker man in the movie – but it just didn’t work cinematically.

Kathryn Stockett: I did not care!

Tate Taylor: Wasn’t he masturbating with a hard on?

Kathryn Stockett: I kind of like the idea of a (garbled) chase with a man holding his cock. But it just didn’t have a place in the story and I don’t care.

Tate Taylor: But you got so tickled talking about the pecker man in the book. I was like, ‘Oh you know I can’t put the pecker man in.’

Kathryn Stockett: Can’t you just see her with her big eyes like, ‘Ahh!’ (Laughs)

ShockYa: Can you guys talk about the casting – writing these characters and then seeing them come to life.

Tate Taylor: It was just weird for you (Katy) you were like, ‘This is so weird.’ Seeing the scenes come to life.

Kathryn Stockett: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But Octavia had actually toured with me when the book first came out. And you know when I first started writing the character of Minny I just kept thinking about Octavia. You know she is very well educated, she’s a writer, she writes poetry – she isn’t Minny. But there’s something about Octavia’s mannerisms that can really take you and the way she looks you in the eye and you know exactly what she’s thinking. And so I loved to draw on that when I was writing the character of Minny and so you know as she toured with me it was so cool to hear her read those lines. And for me that’s really what locked it in. I didn’t have any say so over casting except that Octavia would be Minny.

Tate Taylor: Yeah Octavia had the part period and then Ally…You know Octavia’s been in everything I ever directed same with Alison Janney – so. I was so excited when I was reading her book (I know it wasn’t a movie) and I was like, ‘Oh my God Charlotte Phelan this can be Alison!’ So that was there and I always wanted Viola…and I mean really I prepared myself for this never happening again quite like this. The whole experience from everybody you’ll probably talk to – we just had the greatest time. Dreamworks was amazing, they just did not rock the boat, they saw this dynamic we all had as life-long friends and luckily people were talented in our group and they said, “Okay! Please, this is great.’ So it just worked out.

Kathryn Stockett: And my daughter plays young Skeeter. That’s one of the perks of having your friend be the director.

the help smiles

“The Help” is out in theaters this Wednesday, August 9th.

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