What is intended as advice-gathering meetings for Skeeter to get the household tips she needs soon turns into an unlikely friendship that breaks societal rules and leads to a secret book project—monitored by a major New York publishing company Skeeter has somehow managed to interest—that tells the true stories of black housekeepers working in white homes.

“I think Skeeter specifically hit a chord with me,” shares Emma Stone (Crazy Stupid Love), a rising young star in Hollywood who portrays the ambitious wordsmith on-screen. “I think a lot of times characters . . .  well, there’s something in them that you really want to access and to feel at specific times in your life. And her bravery may have been something that I may have wanted to feel at that time.”

As Aibileen, Skeeter’s reserved-yet-willing accomplice in the undercover book pursuit, Viola Davis (It’s Kind of a Funny Story) creates a screen presence that’s understated yet powerful in what one housekeeper is bravely willing to convey from her years of working and raising seventeen children for different employers in the white homes of Jackson.

“Aibileen is so different from who I am,” the Academy Award-nominated actress says. “And that’s always interesting to me as an actress. I loved the fact that most of her life takes place in stream of consciousness, that she doesn’t talk a lot. So for me it was an interesting challenge to communicate her inner life without the words, because usually it’s the flashy character who says what she thinks and says what she feels that people are kind of drawn to. But I’m drawn to the character who doesn’t say what she feels and say what she thinks. I think it’s a great challenge as an actress.”

Now We’re Cookin’ with Crisco

For those drawn to the flashier characters of the story, they won’t be disappointed in Aibileen’s best friend and fellow maid, Minny Jackson, who’s proud to be known as the best cook in Mississippi and is so vividly portrayed on-screen by Octavia Spencer (Dinner for Schmucks), another member in the Taylor/Stockett/Green friend-collective who has also been a part of the manuscript-to-movie saga since nearly day one.

Spencer, who first met Taylor while both were production assistants on the film set of A Time to Kill in 1996, eventually moved to Los Angeles and roomed with Taylor for a while as she became close friends with Green and also Stockett, when the New York-based writer would come to the West Coast to visit.

As Taylor began adapting the manuscript to a screenplay, Octavia would get a peek now and then of what her roommate was writing. So she offered her input and saw how she might play an even bigger role in the greater story.

“Since Kathryn modeled some of Minny’s traits after Octavia,” Taylor explains, “we felt no one else could play her except Octavia.”