Jessica, how did you get the part of Celia?
Jessica Chastain: I got the script through my manager at a really early stage, I thought, “Oh my gosh, Celia is great!” (Laughs) I loved this character, it was an uphill battle because I’m not the obvious choice to play that character, I’m not buxom and blonde, I’m really not that perfect for the part (laughs). It was quite a uphill battle. But with my very first audition I met Octavia Spencer and we read together – it was like fireworks, I really felt like the dynamic of Minny and Celia could work really well. Tate Taylor, the director, he really went to bat for me. He always believed in me, he believed that I could find her. He helped me transform physically, I got to gain some weight (laughs), I got to drive all around Mississippi, to see where Celia was from, I read a lot about Marylyn Monroe. I did so much to find this woman. Tate Taylor was the one who really gave me that opportunity, he fought for me tooth and nail to get the part.
The setting for the film, Mississippi, was like an additional character for me.
Jessica Chastain: It’s so important for me to shoot on location, if possible. There’s something you get from the energy of the world, the same with costumes. We filmed it in Mississippi, I was wearing these girdles from the 1960’s (laughs). Then being in Mississippi, in that heat, it can’t help but change the way you move, the way you talk, the way your skin sort of glistens, everything is slower. If you’re in a sound studio in Los Angeles, it’s harder to find that energy. Mississippi was absolutely a character in this film. Also the wonderful thing about filming in Greenwood Mississippi was that everyone was so supportive and really excited we were there. There was some big fans of the book about. We had a lot of dinners together, we were meeting locals. It was a wonderful opportunity to be immersed in that Mississippi vibe.
What themes really hit home for you with this film?
Jessica Chastain: I think it is a film that speaks to women, but I also think it’s bigger than that. I think it speaks to the underdog. We’ve all, at some point been the underdog. It really speaks to you to find your voice and stand up for what you believe – to use your voice. The movies about all women, that with the love of each other, with Minny’s help Celia learns how to stand up to people, realise that she doesn’t have to try to be something that she’s not. I hope people will see the film and it inspires them to fight for what they believe in, be true to who they are, and really find their voice – because I think that’s the most powerful thing we have.