The Help takes place down south in Mississippi in the late 1960s, where segregation was at an all time high.
Emma plays Eugenia, who writes an anonymous book based on the stories that the African American maids told her about their white employees.
Viola plays Aibileen, a maid who decided to speak up and tell her story, risking her job, her livelihood and possibly, her life.
We had a chance to sit down with the two actresses to see how they felt about being a part of such a moving movie.
GlobalGrind: Let’s talk about the importance of the story and what it meant for you to be involved in this.
Viola: It meant a lot. I just had a lot of stake in this story and this time period and educating people about what our history was in this country. And humanizing what people would just label as maids. Everyone just wants to say you are playing a maid and I just want to say, I’m playing Aibileen and Octavia is playing Minny and Aunjanue Ellis is playing Yule Mae and Cicely Tyson playing Constantine. We are people and we have names and we have heart, and humor and love and we have life.
I just think it’s important for people to understand that we indeed are human and we played a part in shaping history in a way in terms of raising these children when these women couldn’t. And in Mississippi of all places. Birthplace of the White Citizens Council, and the KKK and Emmitt Till, and the death of Medger Evers. And these incredible women were born out of that.
We love seeing this movie show strong women on both sides. We like the diversity because you don’t see that a lot.
Viola: You don’t, absolutely.
Emma: We were saying you don’t see this many well written female roles in anything. There are eight.
Viola: And they are different ages and races.
What was it like when you were shooting? We know when you walk onto a project you feel one way because you read the script, but how did your emotions change as the process of shooting the film evolved?
Emma: As I was shooting the movie, for me I was learning more and more about the history about where we were and what happened there. The story we were telling. Driving by gravesites and just being on the Tallahatchie River.
Viola: And seeing people swimming in the Tallahatchie River which is merky.
Emma: It added more and more depth and humility. It only got more important as the shoot went on.
We want to ask you what is that one movie that moves you and created emotions that poured out of you while you were watching it and why?
Emma: I’ve got different movies that did different things for different reasons. Comedies that really deeply affected me because I wanted to be a comedian, social movies like The Social Network, we were just talking about that the other day, it just speaks out on the hypocrisy of our times. There’s a lot.
Viola: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman was my first movie that was televised and I just thought, oh my god what that woman went through. What Jane Pittman went through and to see Cicely Tyson’s performance. I watched it again before I did the movie just to remember why I wanted to do this to begin with. And oh my god, there was commentary afterwards and I thought, that’s it.
Make sure you go check The Help out when it hits theater today.
Click next for more photos of Viola Davis and Emma Stone.
Emma Stone plays a recent college graduate who writes an anonymous book.
Viola Davis plays a maid named Aibileen who decided to speak up and tell her story.
Emma Stone delivers a powerful message.
Viola drives home a strong message in The Help.