Tate Taylor shines national spotlight again on Natchez and his beloved Church Hill

Published 12:03 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Hollywood film director, actor and producer Tate Taylor shined yet another spotlight on Church Hill, Natchez, and Mississippi on Saturday when he was featured in a piece on CBS Saturday morning.

Co-anchor Michelle Miller traveled to Mississippi recently to visit with Taylor in Church Hill and Natchez, exploring businesses and the community he has developed in his native Mississippi.

Taylor is best known for directing The Help, a 2011 film adapted from a novel written by his childhood friend, Kathryn Stockett. Taylor, who celebrated his 55th birthday on June 3, grew up in Jackson. He and his partner, film producer John Norris, live at Wyolah, an antebellum home in Church Hill.

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Taylor got his start as a production assistant in the 1995 film A Time to Kill, where he met and became fast friends with Octavia Spencer, a fellow production assistant on that film. Spencer won an Oscar for best supporting actress for her work in The Help. The two moved to Hollywood together in 1996 and became roommates. Spencer since has acted in a number of Taylor’s films.

In 2013, Taylor brought a 60-member production crew to Natchez and Church Hill to film Get on Up, the James Brown biopic starring the late Chadwick Boseman.

Miller said when not directing Palm Royale, which he and partner John Norris produce, the two can be found in the Magnolia state. Taylor took Miller to The Little Easy Restaurant on High Street, across the road from his Crooked Letter Picture Company sound stage.

“This is the epicenter of how I like to make film and television,” Taylor said. “We have the sound stage here. We film on the stage, we eat lunch in the restaurant, and when we’re done, we are right here at the blues club on the Mississippi River,” referring to Smoot’s Grocery.

Taylor also filmed his Breaking News in Yuba County in Natchez, a film that was set in Ohio. He said former Gov. Haley Barbour commissioned a study after The Help was filmed in Greenwood. “He found that $15 million went directly into the pockets of Mississippians,” Taylor said.

“To have someone who has a hardware store or sandwich shop come up me and throw their arms around me and say, ‘Thank you. This is the best summer we’ve ever had…’ Something clicked. If I could bring my industry back home and affect communities in a positive way, and show people who have never been here that we are all just humans living in communities doing the best we can and maybe just want to create a great place,” Taylor said.