Viola Davis says she took on the role of black Mississippi housekeeper Aibileen Clark in the 1960s-themed film "The Help" because she felt a "huge responsibility" to her loved ones, but that she did not want to portray the "stereotype" of a maid on film.
The movie, which hits theaters on Wednesday, August 10, depicts the relationships between black domestic workers and their white employers in the American South during an era of social change.
Emma Stone plays Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, an aspiring writer and college graduate who was partially raised by a black maid. Octavia Spencer plays outspoken housekeeper Minny Jackson.
"I knew who Aibileen and Minny were, very much because they're my people," Davis told OnTheRedCarpet.com. "They're my mom and my grandmother, my aunts. That's why I did it. I felt a huge responsibility to the people, the women in my life."
Davis, who turns 46 on Thursday, hails from South Carolina and has appeared in movies such as the 2008 film "Doubt" and "Knight and Day" with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in 2010. She also played Lynda P. Frazier on the Showtime series "United States of Tara" before nabbing her role in "The Help."
"I know that I didn't want to play the stereotype," Davis said. "So often, you see the maids in these movies and you see them in the back, and they're making the food and they're taking care of the kid and they have a name. People call them the name every once in a while and then they walk out of the frame and you never quite know who they are. They're in and out. They're invisible, even in movies."
"The Help" is based on a 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett. It also stars Bryce Dallas Howard of "Twilight" fame, whose character acts snotty around the "help."
Known mostly for comedic roles, Stone rose to fame with a supporting role in the 2007 teen film "Superbad." She later starred n the 2010 comedy "Easy A."
She appears in two other movies this year other than "The Help" - the sex-themed comedy "Friends With Benefits" and the romantic film "Crazy, Stupid, Love." Stone recently filmed "The Amazing Spider-Man" with Andrew Garfield, playing the superhero's love interest, Gwen Stacy.
Check out a trailer for "The Help" below.