Cinema Blend writes:
It's 95 degrees in New York City today, which makes today kind of perfect to revisit my trip to the set of The Help, which was shooting last August in Greenwood, Mississippi under the sweltering conditions that are typical for the area but no less unbearable. You may have already caught my conversations with stars Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer from the set; today I've got the film's director, Tate Taylor, plus Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays the film's villain Hilly Holbrook.
Have you adjusted to seeing yourself this way in costume, like when you walk by a mirror?
It’s really weird. And also just ‘cause the character’s so despicable there’s a couple of times that I’ve gone to watch playback, like, to watch the scene over again, just to see a gesture that I did so that I can match it, and I literally, I, like, kinda cringe, like I don’t really want to look at it. What’s interesting is when you start doing a role, at first the image of the character is really shocking but then you play the character, like, 18 hours a day.
Oh, so you’re more shocked by the real you now.
Yeah, because proportionally, you’re more hours the character than you are yourself.
How easy is Hilly to slip into because she’s not a nice woman.
No, she’s really not a nice woman. But it’s really fun to be such a terrible character and I think that the feeling on set is so joyful. In reading the book – and the script is the same way – it’s a really salacious read, it’s really juicy, but it does at moments get really quite heavy. I think Tate has created this environment on set of making everyone feel really playful so that in those moments where it’s really intense and obviously incredibly loaded given our history as a country, that we don’t fall into this lull as actors of just being like "Oh my gosh, this is too much.” Normally for a character like this I would not be able to sleep at night and all of that kind of stuff, but I think because of the feeling that Tate’s created on set, it’s just when she’s evil, it’s really, you know, it’s more fun than it is scary.
Can you talk a little bit about working on the accent? And is the accent not just a matter of place but also of time, is there a different accent in the 60s than now?
Definitely. Nadia, the dialect coach, has been really specific and she’s recorded a lot of people whose dialect would be pure according to the time period. So, people who have retained their accent from the 60s and, you know, were part of the Junior League and just a part of, like, the social circles that these women would’ve been a part of.
Are accents easy for you?
It’s really fun, I really love it and I look forward to it and I enjoy it, but I really appreciate and need the support of a dialect coach. I wouldn’t know where to begin in terms of the nuance of the accent. I would be able to do probably, like, you know, a broad Southern accent but--
It might be the wrong city, the wrong time.
Exactly. Like the only other time I’ve done a Southern accent, I played a character in the 1920s from Memphis. And, so of course there are similarities but there are some pretty distinct differences as well that Nadia pointed out when I first started doing it.
And what’s the trick of, like, playing kind of the snake in the grass? Like in this scene, we’re watching you be really friendly and open but there’s still, maybe because we’ve all read the book, but we still sense kind of the darkness in the there too. It’s gotta – they’ve gotta be there at the same time.
Right. She’s kind of this duplicitous character in that way. I was doing sort of like more of this arch villain thing at first and someone said, “Bryce, you really – you have to protect these women and this time in all this devastating honesty." Most women were definitely not like Hilly, Hilly’s a particular person, clearly. But it is really important to play that she’s not just a two-dimensional character. I mean, she, she believes in certain things and, and obviously it’s, it’s not only misguided, I mean, it’s evil, it’s – her beliefs are evil, but there is an origin for her beliefs. It’s important to really kind of understand the psychology behind it.
Did you do a lot of research, outside of reading the book, to figure out this time period?
The research that I did was fascinatingly personal because my mom was raised a lot in the South in Louisiana. She was born in the 50s so in the 60s and 70s, she was at times ostracized and called “the Northerner." She actually started readingThe Help and had to put it down because it was so intense for her to read it. And now she’s picked it up again and she was like, “I can read Stephen King before bed, I can read Anne Rice before bed, but I have to read The Help during the day,” because it rattles her. And so I spent a lot of time talking to her just about her experiences and what was normal and what wasn’t.