There’s plenty of history that’s seeped deep within the proverbial veins of America. Some of it may be great, but there’s an equal amount of awful prejudice that has been intertwined with this nation for many years. Although we got rid of segregation against minorities decades ago, we still can’t forget that part of our history. That’s where Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help” comes in. The novel brings us back into the midst of the civil rights movement that brings to light how, despite the obstacles, equal rights can still be achieved.
We got the opportunity to converse with several of the stars from “The Help.” The biggest stars easily were actresses Viola Davis and Emma Stone, two of many strong women that fill out the main cast. We talked to them about the crazy amount of competition for the roles, this dark part of America’s recent history and the advice, or lack thereof, that flowed on set.
ShockYa: The book was incredibly popular when it came out. Did you read it before you did the film and did that make you want to be a part of the film?
Emma Stone: I read it after I read the script. My mom had read it and people that I knew had read it, but she’s got a better answer to that one.
Viola Davis: I actually don’t have a better answer, but I did read the book, and I absolutely wanted to be a part of it. You just want to be a part of anything that has a lot of roles for black actresses. You just don’t stumble upon it. Usually it’s maybe one, maybe two black roles in a movie, especially in a mainstream movie. I said, ‘Oh, there are roles for black actresses.’ It was a fabulous book. You’ve all read it, I’m sure, and so it was a fabulous book, but of course I was thinking as an actress and beyond when I was reading the book. I was thinking, ‘Aibileen, Minny, Yule Mae, Constantine. That’s like four all ready. They’re doing good.’ So, yeah. I said, ‘This is going to be good.’
ShockYa: Was it competitive then to actually land the part?
Viola Davis: Oh, yeah. The deprivation. The deprivation is something else, and so every black actress came out of the woodwork, who shall remain nameless.
ShockYa: That scarcity of roles that’s not perfect today, but it was so much worse in the era that the movie takes place. Were you both surprised as you dug into what that time period was like, what people went through and how bad it could be?
Emma Stone: Yeah, absolutely. I don’t know if it’s my generation or if it’s just me, but I didn’t know the levels, the depths, the intricacies. I didn’t know on a day to day basis what life was like [then]. I learned a huge amount of it through this story and through even fictional. I learned a huge amount through the story and through researching the time period more, but I really hope for my generation that they will go see this movie because I don’t know that we know as much as we should about our very recent history. I mean, I remember sitting through European history. I remember sitting through –
Viola Davis: I was about to say that.
Emma Stone: …what the Romans went through.
Viola Davis: We’re not educated. It’s swept under the rug. It’s the big white elephant in the room in our culture. It’s probably a part of our hypocrisy, that we’ve had a brutal history of race, a three hundred and forty six year history. So, I mean, I’m well aware of it because I made a point of making myself well aware of it, even at a young age, in my twenties. So, I knew what the day to day life was like, and I think that if anything I hope the book, or I know the book and the movie will bring that to life. I’m going to say what I’m going to say with a grain of salt; you hope that while people are being entertained and are laughing – we as Americans just want to be entertained and part of that is to escape whatever ills are going on in our personal lives and our political lives, but I hope that people aren’t laughing and having such a good time that they miss, even within that laughter and all of that, the larger message, that it doesn’t have an impact on people. We always want to shrink from it. I find in my life that whenever I’ve shrunk from anything it’s always come back to bite me right in the behind or it always keeps that dysfunction going. There’s enough of that. I think we’ve matured enough as a culture to step away from that. So, I hope that people will take that away from the movie.
ShockYa: Do you feel like it opens up the dialogue for things that are still happening today? Maybe it’s easier because it’s set in the past, but that maybe it can open the door to discussions of our society today.
Viola Davis: I hope. I mean, I think that once Obama became president there was a sigh of relief from people, thinking that racism is over. It’s like Hilary Clinton, if she were elected president would sexism be over? I mean, come on. We all know that whatever took three hundred and forty six years of doing is not going to be undone in fifty years. It’s just not. I hope that opens dialogue with people. I think that people in general are, and I know I am – I’ll put myself in there – afraid of honest discourse. We always want to be in agreement with each other because we want to get along. Some serious things are happening in terms of classicism. The class structure in this country is so polarized. Racism. I mean, you really see it coming out with Obama being president, all of those things. You hope that it opens up a dialogue. You just hope, but what can you do. You can’t change people overnight.
ShockYa: Everyone seems like they’re in unique and different places in their careers, all the women who worked on this movie. Was there a lot of advice sharing and perspective gathering from that sort of thing?
Emma Stone: It’s so funny that’s the question.
Viola Davis: I know, because we get that question, but there was none of that. Nobody was telling anybody anything, giving anyone advice.
Emma Stone: Sissy Spacek told me to wear sunscreen.
ShockYa: Are there times where you get or want advice, or is that just our perception of what goes on?
Emma Stone: I guess sometimes, but it’s only when you seek it out, I think, that people are really willing to give advice. Like, I will say that on ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ Julianne Moore, like any time she was in my vicinity I was like, ‘Okay, if you could do this and you could do this, what –’ and the whole time she was like, ‘I don’t want to give you advice. You don’t care. You don’t want to hear from me.’ I think that would be the most obnoxious thing in the world, if people were like, ‘Let me tell you. Let me sit you down.’
Viola Davis: Yeah. ‘Back in 1980 something when I did “Sophie’s Choice”.’
Emma Stone: Does Meryl [Streep] give a lot of advice?
Viola Davis: You know what, she does not give a lot of advice. I would say that in general, but there are times that she sneaks it in. She’ll sneak it in, and you’re like, ‘Okay, you’re telling me what to do right now,’ but I would take her advice. I would take her advice if she gave it to me. But, no. I didn’t give you any advice. I didn’t give it to anybody.
“The Help” opens in theaters nationwide this Wednesday, August 10th.
Emma Stone may only be 22 years old, but she’s already had one of the busiest years of her life, starring in three films (Crazy Stupid Love, Friends With Benefits and The Help) this year and taking on a key role in the anticipated Spider-Man reboot.
The industry vet, best known for her roles in Easy A, Superbad and Zombieland, opened up about working with The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield in the upcoming Marc Webb film, The Amazing Spider-Man. “Andrew is one of the most giving actors I’ve ever worked with,” she said in an interview with Teen Vogue.
Stone, who plays Peter Parker’s first love Gwen Stacy in the feature and starred in the little-watched Fox drama Drive, praised her co-star. “If I needed to get to a place of love or sadness in a scene, he’d leave messages on my phone to replay, or slip in lines off-camera for a different reaction than what was scripted. He gave me so much to react to,” she recalled. Rumors have been swirling that Stone and Garfield are a couple.
The actress, who stopped by San Diego’s Comic-Con earlier this summer along with Webb, Garfield and Rhys Ifans to tout their 2012 summer film, remembered her experiences in the cavernous Hall H. “It’s my favorite place; I’m dead serious,” Stone shared. “Don’t you find people who are passionate about something — it doesn’t matter what it is, unless it’s like, murder — kind of amazing?”
Emma Stone said that her passion was “change,” whether that meant that she would ultimately drift from being in front of the camera to behind it as a producer or whatnot, that is something that she seems to be open to. “I still really like acting, but I feel like if a day came …,” she began.
he had her humble beginnings here in the Valley, but actress Emma Stone, who still has family here in Phoenix, is everywhere these days.
Not only is she starring in much-anticipated “The Help,” which opens Friday, she’s also in “Crazy Stupid Love,” which is in theaters now, and “Friends With Benefits,” also in theaters now.
As if three movies weren’t enough, Stone is on the cover of this month’s Vanity Fair, as well.
She’s already got drama and comedy covered. She can also add action to her resume with the recently wrapped “The Amazing Spider-Man.” In that one, a franchise reboot, she plays Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s first love before he started dating Mary-Jane Watson.
“I love stories that I can relate to and that feel human, that feel like stories I want to be a part of and I want to tell,” Stone said. “It’s so hard for me to put them under an umbrella. … I don’t think any movie is solely a drama or solely a comedy. Any movies that are that have been made, I don’t usually enjoy.”
“Crazy Stupid Love” and “Friends With Benefits” are both playing now.
“The Help” opens Friday.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” is due out next July.
The film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s surprise 2009 bestseller The Help faces a couple of potential pitfalls: the racial politics of a white woman telling the story of black domestics in Mississippi during the civil-rights movement (via a book written by a white woman and a film by a white director, Tate Taylor) and Hollywood’s traditionally poor track record of portraying the South—particularly its accents—realistically. Twenty-two-year-old Emma Stone is carrying much of that responsibility. She stars as “Skeeter” Phelan, a new college grad working on a book about the domestic-attendant class with Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Against the backdrop of Jim Crow and the murder of Medgar Evers, the trio’s secret project entails real danger. It’s heavy stuff for Stone, who’s best known for comedies like Superbad, Zombieland, Easy A and the recent Crazy, Stupid, Love, but it’s a key part of a slew of upcoming films poised to make her a big star. Stone shows she has the chops for that next step in The Help, buoyed by a strong supporting cast that includes Spencer, Davis, Allison Janney, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Sissy Spacek. Before the film opened, The A.V. Club talked to Stone about doing right by the book’s many fans (including her mom), dealing with the film’s politics, and why she freaks out before starting any movie.
The A.V. Club: There are a lot of potential pitfalls with a movie like this, with the racial politics, portrayal of Southern life, etc. What do you think was the key to avoiding them?
Emma Stone: I think, probably, the reason why everyone wanted to be involved was, it felt like Kathryn had already written a story that didn’t fall into all those pitfalls. In terms of the storytelling, it didn’t feel like we needed to be careful to make this story not a hokey Southern tale, because she didn’t write a hokey Southern tale. The dialect was incredibly hard for me. It was a really difficult thing.
AVC: People don’t really get that there are types of Southern dialects.
ES: Yeah, by county, there’s like 14 different accents in Mississippi alone. [Laughs.] And now, present day, a Mississippi accent is different than in 1963, the way Skeeter spoke, or the way Allison Janney’s character speaks. So we had a dialect coach, which is like going to visit France and having to translate all your emotions into French, and French isn’t your first language. I had to go through that filter, so it was interesting.
AVC: What kind of stuff did she have you do?
ES: Well, she was kind of amazing. She went and met a ton of people in Jackson of all different age ranges and recorded them and sat down with them and had them tell her their life stories. She was Viola’s dialect coach, she was Allison’s dialect coach, she was mine. There were a bunch of different dialects. But she sent me four or five different people talking about their lives that I would sit and listen to, and we honed in on which one we thought would make the most sense for Skeeter, and kind of pieces from all these different accents.
AVC: Like what kinds of pieces?
ES: Have you talked to Kathryn Stockett? She’s the writer of the book and she would say, [Adopts thick accent.] “Awwn” for “on.” But Tate [Taylor]’s also from Jackson, and he says, [Less thick.] “On.” It’s funny. It’s like a puzzle, putting together your individual accent and what you grew up with or what you heard. It must be insane to be a dialect coach, to balance all that out. [Laughs.]
AVC: How much thought went into the unintentional racial politics of the movie? There’s a certain criticism: “Oh, there’s a white woman saving black people.” The book was by a white woman, the movie’s being directed by a white man. How much was that on your mind?
ES: I don’t see this as a white woman saving these maids at all. I think Skeeter’s original intention, especially in the book, is pretty self-[centered]. She’s not a martyr character at all to me. When she first talks to Miss Stein in the book, she comes up with a bunch of ideas, and Miss Stein basically says, “You’re not gonna get published. No one’s gonna find this interesting.” So Skeeter thinks of what would be the most interesting, and that would be if she could speak to the maids in the middle of the civil-rights movement. It’s kind of from a self-serving place of wanting to be published, which I completely relate to, and it seems very human and realistic to me. She’s not a revolutionary in the Junior League; she’s a girl who wants to be published.
As time goes on, she learns more and more about what’s going on, what’s actually happening in society and the kinds of changes they are making. But I think that’s through Aibileen and Minny being brave enough to be part of it. Skeeter’s an idealistic girl who is saying, [Adopts her character’s accent.] “Wouldn’t it be so exciting if I could interview you?” You know, like, “No! You’re gonna get us killed! You’re insane.” Their bravery is what ultimately makes this story even happen. Skeeter doesn’t have a story to tell until the very end, when she’s finally learned just how these women have affected her. I definitely don’t see her as a savior in the story at all. But it has been interesting talking to Viola and Octavia and everyone. Going into the book, they’re reading from Kathryn Stockett’s perspective, and you open with Aibileen’s dialogue. It’s written in this dialect that I can’t even believe [Laughs.] that a white woman is willing to go there, and Viola said by page two, she was completely wrapped up in it and was no longer on guard the way she was when she first started reading the book.
AVC: It’s not like Gone With The Wind.
ES: No, and I think Skeeter even says that when she calls up Miss Stein. “No one asked Mammy how she feels in Gone With The Wind.” Mammy wasn’t really much of a fleshed-out character. She was just kind of there to take care of Miss Scarlett.
AVC: You mentioned in the book that Skeeter’s trying these different ideas to Miss Stein. Was there anything else in the book that didn’t make it into the movie that you wish had?
ES: There were elements of getting to know Stuart’s family. His father in the book is a senator, and she goes over for this dinner, which is a really funny, heartbreaking scene in the book because the father is a drunk. It becomes a really interesting whole level to Skeeter and Stuart that understandably, for time and the fact that we only have two hours instead of 444 pages, that wasn’t in there. But I would’ve liked that. There was also a really interesting scene with a naked man in Celia’s backyard in the book, which is really bizarre, and you see Celia turn into a total badass, and Minny defends her. It was a really strange and interesting scene.
AVC: Did you guys shoot much more than what is in the movie?
ES: Not much more, but there are definitely some things.
AVC: Like what?
ES: Tate has explained it all to me, so I totally understand why it’s not in the movie, but there was one where Hilly kicks me out of this Junior League—it’s a real standoff—after Skeeter puts the toilets on her lawn. But I think it’s pretty much insinuated. Then there was a scene with the maids, and one of them basically sits down with me and says, “You know we hate you, right?” Which was really beautiful and interesting, and again, very realistic. All these women are like, “We don’t trust you. We don’t trust what you’re doing. Why are you here? What are you gaining from this?” Aibileen basically escorts her out, but everyone’s silently agreeing with what she said to me. I thought that was a kind of an incredible scene, and the actress was incredible, so I’m pretty bummed that that scene didn’t make it.
AVC: Did you feel especially nervous about working on this film? The other roles you’ve done haven’t matched the thematic scale.
ES: Yeah. Well, without fail, about a week before shooting anything, I’m always like, “Oh my God, I’m completely unprepared. I haven’t done enough research. I haven’t got anything right.” It’d be like taking a final or something. “Fuck, it’s so much work to get done!” [Laughs.] So it’s like the night before the final. That happens every time I’m about to start a project, as I’m sure it does to most people when they have to start a new job or something you care about a lot, or you want to do right. But the thing about Tate is that he’s insane.
AVC: You’ve talked about how big of a fan of the book your mom is. Does this feel like your first really big, “legitimate” movie in that sense?
ES: Well, the thing that’s also interesting about this is, it’s the first time I’ve ever done a movie based on a book, an adaptation. It’s so funny, because you usually get a script and you tell people what the story’s about, and they have no idea what’s going on. Whereas this, you come into it, and it seems like everyone you talk to has [Laughs.] a million opinions on the cast and the way the story should be told. Viola keeps saying this movie should be called The Big Responsibility instead of The Help, because there were so many groups of people that you wanna do right by. You want to do right by Southerners and the African-American community and the readers of the book and the people that grew up with domestics and the people who worked as domestics. There’s a million different groups that you’re trying to please and satisfy that you’re worried about not loving what comes across onscreen. You kind of have to simplify. But yes, definitely. Coming from my mom… [Sighs, then laughs.]
AVC: But you also have to know that you can’t please everybody.
ES: No. Of course, and that’s something you have to come to terms with in life, growing up, as well. With your work, you have to realize that at the end of the day, you can only do the best you can do, and you have to just live up to your own goals, if possible.
AVC: This is a good time for you, because it seems like you’re on the precipice of big things: a lot of films this summer, a blockbuster next year. To have a film where you’re having to please all these people at this juncture in your career, it seems like there would be a lot of pressure.
ES: Well, this whole world doesn’t really feel like reality. It never has. As much as I try to be present, it just doesn’t really feel like reality. It feels like a fleeting thing. I’ll remember this time and look back on it fondly, but I don’t expect it to last forever. There’s a million other incredibly wonderful girls that are much more talented than me that are out there all the time. So I’m just trying to appreciate it for what it is. But I don’t want it to take on that feeling of pressure, because I don’t know where that’s gonna get me. That’ll drive me crazy. And what’s the pressure? What is the pressure, exactly?
AVC: To succeed?
ES: But success to me is my friends and family are healthy and happy and I feel good about myself at the end of the night and I can sleep at night. I mean, being able to work on projects that I love and care about has been the greatest gift ever, and that’s been a pretty recent thing in my life. But success for me at some point will probably be having a family. [Laughs.] I don’t know how I define it.
AVC: You’ve said you want to emulate Diane Keaton, and Tate Taylor said he was looking for a “Joan Cusack at 20” type for this role, but it also seems like Sissy Spacek would be a role model for you.
ES: Yes! Absolutely. You could reach the scene, and you could never have any idea that she’s Sissy Spacek. She’s like, a mom, so down-to-earth, so relatable and human and not in her head or in her shit at all! Yeah, she’s a total role model. Because I find more and more, as time goes on, these people I meet, they are starting to become these people I look up to more and more. Like Julianne Moore, also, on Crazy Stupid Love: kids, husband, priorities straight. Or Woody Harrelson’s like that. Those are the people I really admire, and that’s success to me: being able to balance that life and not buy into it. And do the work that you want to do and makes you happy, because you’re lucky enough to do it. But if I never got a role again, I’ve got this incredible life.
AVC: And they’ve been able to work—
ES: Steadily, because they followed their hearts and because they made decisions creatively and did what was important to them. That’s the ultimate goal, is never falling into that… thing.
I have just added 59 HQ and MQ photos of Emma Stone presenting and backstage at the 2011 Teen Choice Awards from last night in Los Angeles!
Good news! Out of all the awards that Emma was nominated for at the ceremony, she went home with the “Choice Movie Actress Romantic Comedy” award for her role as Olive in “Easy A”! Congrats to Emma!
The new movie “The Help” stars Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek and Allison Janney. But the film also features a talented supporting cast; names you may not recognize just yet, but after the movie opens you will.
“The Help” is based on the bestselling novel of the same name. The book follows the lives of three very different women — two African American maids and the daughter of a prominent white family — in the 1960s who team up to change their southern town and expose the treatment of African American maids in white households.
Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer are part of the ensemble cast. The actors shot the film away from Hollywood, on location in Mississippi, where the novel is set.
“I felt from the very beginning, from my very first audition, that this was not typical Hollywood,” said Chastain. “The kidness and working with this girl (pointing to Spencer), the second I met her, I knew I had to play Celia.”
Spencer has been friends with “The Help” writer-director Tate Taylor for many years, who, in turn, has been lifelong friends with the novel’s writer, Kathryn Stockett. The actress marvels in the fact that all these friends have been able to see this project through together.
“To get to see Octavia play this role, this really dynamic woman, an amazing character, who she inspired because she’s an amazing dynamic woman, it’s really powerful,” said Chastain.
Their two characters, Celia Foote and her new maid Minny Jackson, forge a deep bond on screen. And it’s obvious the same thing happened with the cast off screen as well.
“I’ve just grown attached to these people, and I don’t know what my life would have been like had I not gotten to do it and certainly I know now what my life wouldn’t be without these women in it. So I’m really grateful for that,” said Spencer.
“The Help” opens on Wednesday, August 10.
“The Help”, a collaboration between lifelong friends Kathryn Stockett, who wrote the best-selling novel of the same name, and Tate Taylor, the film’s writer-director, portrays three unlikely cohorts who expose scandals and civil-rights injustices in 1960s Jackson, Miss.
The feature film is lead by a strong female cast, including Emma Stone, who plays Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan and breakout star Octavia Spencer, who plays Minny Jackson, an outspoken maid with a devilish secret.
In a video interview with ComingSoon.net, the leading lady Emma Stone, in her first major dramatic role, reveals how she stepped into character as the ambitious writer Skeeter.
“Since it’s based on a book, I felt so lucky,” said Stone in the ComingSoon.net exclusive video. “When I read a book, it’s like I know those characters and my interpretation of those characters so well. I’ve never gotten to be in a movie version of a book before, so Skeeter felt pretty fleshed out for me as a reader…there’s 120 short pages in a script; there’s 444 long pages in “The Help”. It was just so incredibly helpful because I didn’t know too many people who were 23 in 1963.”
However, for one actress, her inspiration came from real-life experience and deeply seeded raw emotions.
“These characters, like Aibileen, and Milly, and Constantine and Yule May, they’re my family,” said Viola Davis, who stars as the kind-hearted maid Aibileen. “I know those women. Those women are very specific in my history. My aunt Joyce, my mom May Alice, my grandmother…I know those women. I didn’t even have to search. I could just have emotional recall.”
The flick has already been getting Oscar buzz, so this is definitely one film you won’t want to miss. “The Help” opens this Wednesday.
PBS’ long-running staple, Sesame Street is set to launch its 42nd season September 26. But, not without a little help from its vast array of celebrity friends.
The new season, which will focus on teaching kids about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), will continue in the tradition of featuring celebrity guests stars.
Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams, Amy Adams, Naomi Watts, Mark Ruffalo, Mila Kunis, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Emma Stone are set to appear. The show will also feature spots from Conan O’Brien, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Andy Samberg and Seth Rogan among others.