Jessica Chastain has expressed interest in making a sequel to The Help. The 2011 Oscar-nominated film is based on a novel by Kathryn Stockett set in 1963 Mississippi. It tells the story of a white reporter named Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) who interviews and writes a book about black women who dedicated their lives to caring for wealthy white families. Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minerva “Minnie” Jackson (Octavia Spencer) are the black women who receive the most attention in this story. Minnie works for Celia Foote (Chastain), who is marginalized by other white housewives.
During an interview with the EW Awardist podcast, Chastain spoke about her willingness to reprise her role as Celia in the sequel to The Help. She shared what she loves about Celia’s character, why she’s so eager to get back on set, and how the film can take a deeper look at her character’s relationship with Minnie. Here’s what Chastain had to say:
“You know who I always think about and who I want to play (again)? Celia Foot. I want to do something, Celia and Minnie, and see what happens. You know they end up living together and raising a child together, they were best friends. How good would this movie be? I really enjoyed it and I was able to have some fun.”
“I felt that many of my characters could go through a lot of challenges. Celia, this was a great dive for me. I really experimented a lot with this character and didn’t get many scenes because I was part of the story support. He is a character that I would like to play.”
Why a sequel to The Help is a bad idea
While The Help initially received mostly positive reviews, its legacy has become negative and complex over the years. The film was heavily criticized for its white savior narrative. While the focus of the story is on black women, it is primarily told from Skeeter’s point of view and explores how her interviews and writing help Aibileen, Minnie, and other black characters in the story. It doesn’t help that the narrative was mostly told by white narrators, including novel author Stockett and film adaptation director Tate Taylor.
Some of the actors in the film expressed similar sentiments, with Davis saying he regrets doing The Help. Davis said, “Part of me feels like I betrayed myself and my people because I was in a film that I wasn’t ready to (tell the whole truth)”, and that the film “was interested in the idea of what it means to be black, but… it was aimed to a white audience. Davies’ comments sum up that The Help’s simplification and narrative of white saviors is up to date.
Like many elements of The Help, Celia and Minnie’s unlikely friendship lacked the context needed for the story to be true. If the sequel could have tried to fix that, it would likely have done more damage. Chastain’s idea of making a light-hearted film in which Minnie still lives with Celia while they raise Celia’s baby together seems like a continuation of the problematic elements that plagued the original story. Celia may be the character Chastain dreams of playing again, but returning to The Help with a sequel seems like a completely pointless idea.