The Man Behind "The Help"
His triumph often gets spun as a fairy tale of overnight success, but at Wyolah, seated on a couch in his living room, Taylor talks about more than fifteen years of hard work in New York and Los Angeles. He got started as a comedian with the Groundlings, the improv group that counts Will Ferrell and Lisa Kudrow as alums. He acted in commercials. He fetched golden retriever puppies and chocolate chip cookies for J.Crew photo shoots. He once drove to Bakersfield, a dusty city northwest of Los Angeles, to film wild turkeys for the director of a beer commercial.
Taylor did serious work, too. His short, Chicken Party, and his first feature, Pretty Ugly People, thrived at film festivals. “He was an established actor in L.A. and knows a lot of people,” says Brunson Green, a friend and The Help’s producer. “He’s finally able to show his talents to a much wider audience.”
Taylor never envisioned doing Hollywood work in rural Mississippi, but after filming The Help in Greenwood last summer, he began longing for home. And now that he’s back, he and Stockett want to help aspiring writers and filmmakers in the South. Wyolah’s restoration plans call for four bedrooms and baths on the third floor, where Taylor can hold workshops and host industry hopefuls.
Soon, he’ll tour the country to promote the film. But at Wyolah this afternoon, he’s relaxed. Lynyrd Skynyrd plays in the antebellum house. “It’s on shuffle!” Taylor protests. “I am not a redneck! Edith Piaf was on just before!” Cell phones don’t work out here. The Internet is slow. A delivery truck shows up to drop off trailers of The Help. The driver tells Taylor it took hours to find him, his GPS rendered useless. “You see that?” Taylor says as we watch the truck retreat down the gravel drive. “That’s why I bought this place.”