Angela Bassett is an American actress best known for her roles in biographical productions like 'What's Love Got to Do with It' and 'The Rosa Parks Story.' She has worked on a variety of projects in her illustrious career spanning over three decades. After performing in a dance group as a child, she discovered her love for acting during a field trip to Washington D.C. in her 11th grade where she watched actor James Earl Jones perform in a ‘Kennedy Center’ production of the play 'Of Mice and Men.' Before getting into acting, she briefly worked as a receptionist at a beauty salon and as a photo researcher for 'U.S. News & World Report' magazine. She then proved her acting prowess as a theatre actor and went on to feature in a number of movies and television shows. Some of her notable films include 'Boyz n the Hood,' 'Malcolm X,' 'Panther,' 'Waiting to Exhale,' 'Akeelah and the Bee,' 'Green Lantern,' 'Black Nativity,' 'London Has Fallen,' ‘Black Panther,’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame.’ She has also appeared in television series, such as 'ER' and 'American Horror Story.'
Childhood & Early Life
Angela Evelyn Bassett was born on August 16, 1958, in New York City, USA, to Betty Jane and Daniel Benjamin Bassett. Her father was an electrician and her mother worked as a nurse's aide.
When she was only 10 months old, her parents sent her to Winston-Salem to live with her father's sister Aunt Golden. Her parents separated soon after, and her mother took her and her younger sister D'nette to St. Petersburg, Florida, to live with her grandparents.
Angela would visit the church on Sundays and was part of the youth choir. She loved listening to popular ‘Motown’ hits on the radio, and her mother would often make her and her sister dance for the songs. Later, a lady in their neighborhood helped them in forming a dance group
Her mother, who had slacked off in high school, didn't want her children to suffer the same fate, and was extra cautious that they do well in school. Angela attended ‘Boca Ciega High School’ where she became a member of the ‘Upward Bound’ program. She also became part of the debate team, student government, drama club, and choir.
She received her bachelor's degree in African-American studies from ‘Yale University’ in 1980. Three years later, she earned Master of Fine Arts degree from the ‘Yale School of Drama.’
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Angela Bassett, who studied under renowned stage director Lloyd Richards, started her acting career on stage under his direction. She appeared in two August Wilson plays, namely 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' (1984) and 'Joe Turner's Come and Gone' (1986) at the ‘Yale Repertory Theatre.’ Around the same time, she was featured in J. E. Franklin's 'Black Girl' at ‘Second Stage Theatre.’
She soon switched to TV and films. However, she was initially cast to play stereotypical roles reserved for African-American women. Her first major role came in 1991 when she was cast in John Singleton's 'Boyz n the Hood.' Her friend Laurence Fishburne, who also acted in the movie, had recommended her for the role.
Bassett, who is a big 'Jackson 5' fan, was offered the role of ‘Katherine Jackson’ in the mini-series 'The Jacksons: An American Dream' in 1992. She went on to play the role of ‘Betty Shabazz’ in the biopic 'Malcolm X' which released in the same year. She would portray ‘Betty Shabazz’ again in 'Panther' in 1995.
Her big breakthrough came in 1993 when she landed the role of ‘Tina Turner’ in the biographical film 'What's Love Got to Do with It.' Her friend Laurence Fishburne who had previously turned down the role of ‘Ike Turner’ five times, portrayed the character after Bassett was roped in to play the lead role.
In 1995 and 1998, she played major roles in two film adaptations of Terry McMillan’s books, 'Waiting to Exhale' and 'How Stella Got Her Groove Back,' respectively. In the former, she worked alongside Whitney Houston, one of the most awarded female artists of all time.
Angela Bassett continued to appear on stage productions, working with her husband Courtney B. Vance in 'His Girl Friday' in 2005. The next year, she starred in another August Wilson play titled 'Fences' alongside Fishburne.
In 2002, she played the protagonist in the biographical telefilm 'The Rosa Parks Story.' In 2006, she worked with Keke Palmer and Laurence Fishburne in the critically acclaimed movie 'Akeelah and the Bee.' She went on to appear in a major role in the 2009 biopic 'Notorious.'
On television, she made guest appearances in a number of shows before being cast as ‘Dr. Cate Banfield’ in the final season of the long-running medical drama 'ER' in 2008. She went on to appear in five seasons of 'American Horror Story,' earning a number of award nominations for her performance.
She appeared as one of the main cast members in the BBC Two mini-series ‘Close to the Enemy’ in 2016. Two years later, she played ‘Ramonda,’ the titular character’s mother, in the superhero film ‘Black Panther.’ She would reprise her role as ‘Ramonda’ in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (2019).
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She appeared alongside the likes of Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, and Alec Baldwin in the action spy film ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ (2018). She also had a voice role in the film ‘Bumblebee’ (2018)
Currently, she is playing ‘Sergeant Athena Grant’ in the Fox police procedural drama ‘9-1-1.’ Her future projects include ‘Attorney’s at Love’ and ‘Gunpowder Milkshake.’
Angela Bassett is best known for portraying strong black women in a number of biographical films and TV series. She received much praise for playing ‘Betty Shabazz’ in 'Malcolm X.' She impressed the audience with her portrayal of ‘Rosa Parks’ in the TV movie 'The Rosa Parks Story.'
'What's Love Got to Do with It' is her most critically acclaimed work so far. It earned her a number of prestigious awards and nominations. The film boasts of favorable critical reviews and grossed nearly $40 million in the US.
Awards & Achievements
For her portrayal of ‘Tina Turner’ in the biopic 'What's Love Got to Do with It,' Angela Bassett was nominated for the 'Academy Award' for 'Best Actress.' She has received a bunch of awards for this role, including the 'Golden Globe Award' for 'Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.'
She has received five 'Primetime Emmy Award' nominations so far, with two back-to-back nominations in 2014 and 2015 for her role in the television series 'American Horror Story.' She also received two 'Screen Actors Guild Award' nominations for 'Ruby's Bucket of Blood' and 'Betty and Coretta.'
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1997, Angela Bassett married actor Courtney B. Vance whom she met while studying at ‘Yale University.’ After going through seven years of failed fertility treatment, the couple was blessed with twins Bronwyn Golden and Slater Josiah via surrogate mother. The family currently lives in Los Angeles, California.
She promoted Barack Obama's reelection campaign in 2012. She also supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
When Angela Bassett was very young, many girls of her age had white dolls like ‘Barbie.’ However, she loved the black dolls her Aunt Golden gave her. Several companies had started making black dolls following the release of James Brown’s song 'Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud.'
She was injured while filming a domestic violence scene in 'What's Love Got to Do with It.' The same footage was used in the movie.