The 2011 film is based on the book of the same name by Kathryn Stockett about the plight of Black maids living in Mississippi during the civil rights era in the 1960s who take care of white families. Spencer won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role the following year.
Chastain was also nominated in the same category but lost to Spencer, and now she wants to make a sequel based on their character’s friendship.
While the film was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, it was also widely criticized as centralizing all the white characters rather than the Black characters. Co-star Viola Davis told Vanity Fair that although she made life-long friendships while working on the film, she regretted making the movie.
“Almost a better question is, have I ever done roles that I’ve regretted? I have, and ‘The Help’ is on that list,” she said. “I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard.”
Davis shared the same sentiment in a separate Vanity Fair interview in 2020. She said she felt she “betrayed” herself by starring in a film that was “was created in the filter and the cesspool of systemic racism.”
“Not a lot of narratives are also invested in our humanity. They’re invested in the idea of what it means to be Black, but…it’s catering to the white audience,” Davis said. “The white audience at the most can sit and get an academic lesson into how we are. Then they leave the movie theater and they talk about what it meant. They’re not moved by who we were.”
Chastain revealed that she wanted to make a sequel to “The Help” during an appearance on “Entertainment Weekly’s The “Awardist” Podcast while discussing Minny’s friendship with Celia.
It began after Davis’ character Aibileen informed Minny that Celia was looking for maid help at her home. Minny had just gotten fired from working for one of the most powerful families in the city of Jackson for using the bathroom inside their home. She taught Celia how to not burn chicken and witnessed her have one of three miscarriages, while Celia tended to Minny after she was beaten by her husband.
“You know who I think about all the time, and I just wish I could play her [again]? Celia Foote,” Chastain said. “I just want to do something, Celia and Minny, and see what happened. You know they ended up living together and raising the baby together, they were best friends. How amazing would that film be? I loved her, and I got to be a bit silly.”
Reactions on social media warranted a swift “No, thank you” from X users.
“Dear lord baby Black Jesus, NO! Look, I am happy for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer’s careers but they paid their dues and then some. Jessica, girl, just no,” replied one user.
“She can just work with Octavia Spencer again without having it be in a Help sequel…,” noted another.
“The only sequel we need is Olivia and Viola are the ladies of the house and Jessica Chastain is the maid,” concluded another.
One person looking forward to seeing the duo again wrote, “Celia and Minny the best duo in the film.”
While Chastain may have been tone-deaf about a sequel of the film, Spencer credited the “Zero Dark Thirty” actress with making sure Spencer was paid the same amount as her for their upcoming untitled holiday movie with Universal.
“I love that woman because she’s walking the walk and she’s actually talking the talk,” said Spencer in 2018. “She said, ‘Octavia, we’re gonna get you paid on this film. … You and I are gonna be tied together. We’re gonna be favored nations, and we’re gonna make the same thing, you are going to make that amount.’ And fast-forward to last week, we’re making five times what we asked for.”
As for a sequel to the film, Spencer hasn’t spoken on it, but she did say in January that a movie like “The Help” represents “real people.”
“Could ‘The Help’ be made today? I don’t know. Should ‘The Help’ be made today? Absolutely,” she said. “It represents real people who made real contributions to society who were never rewarded for those contributions.”
“The Help” also starred the great Cicely Tyson, Emma Stone, Sissy Spacek, and Bryce Dallas Howard.