Angela Bassett

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Angela Bassett
Angela Bassett, Red Dress Collection 2007.jpg
Bassett at the 2007 Red Dress Collection for The Heart Truth campaign
BornAngela Evelyn Bassett
(1958-08-16) August 16, 1958 (age 55)
Harlem, New York, U.S.
Alma materYale University, Yale School of Drama
Years active1985–present
Spouse(s)Courtney B. Vance (m. 1997)
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Angela Bassett
Angela Bassett, Red Dress Collection 2007.jpg
Bassett at the 2007 Red Dress Collection for The Heart Truth campaign
BornAngela Evelyn Bassett
(1958-08-16) August 16, 1958 (age 55)
Harlem, New York, U.S.
Alma materYale University, Yale School of Drama
Years active1985–present
Spouse(s)Courtney B. Vance (m. 1997)

Angela Evelyn Bassett (born August 16, 1958) is an American actress. She has become well known for her biographical film roles portraying real-life women, including Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It, as well as Betty Shabazz in Malcolm X and Panther, Rosa Parks in The Rosa Parks Story, Katherine Jackson in The Jacksons: An American Dream, and Voletta Wallace in Notorious.

Bassett began her film career in the mid-1980s after graduating from Yale University and its drama school. She did not find any stability in the industry until the 1990s, at which point she appeared in films nearly every year. The 2000s saw a succession of films starring Bassett, with her appearing in at least one film every single year. Bassett's success has continued into the 2010s. Bassett earned nominations for her roles in films such as The Score (2001), Akeelah and the Bee (2006), Meet the Browns (2008) and Jumping the Broom (2011) and won awards for her performances in How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998) and Music of the Heart (1999) among others.

She had a recurring role from 2013 to 2014 on the FX horror series American Horror Story: Coven, playing Voodoo queen Marie Laveau. She will return for American Horror Story: Freak Show, the anthology series' fourth season.

Early life[edit]

Boca Ciega High School, where Bassett as a teenager was a member of the debate team and student government among other endeavors.

Bassett was born in Harlem, New York on August 16, 1958, the daughter of Betty Jane and Daniel Benjamin Bassett.[1] Bassett's middle name was given to her in honor of her aunt Evelyn. Bassett's mother lived in New York City with her father's brother and his wife when she met Bassett's father. Daniel Bassett had moved to New York after living in North Carolina, and he moved to Harlem with Bassett's mother after her pregnancy began.[2] Ten months after Bassett was born, her mother became pregnant and had a second child, Bassett's sister D'nette. Bassett said the pregnancy "only made things harder." Bassett's parents "shipped" her to stay with her father's sister Golden. While her aunt did not have any children of her own, she "loved children, and she was good with them."[3]

After her parents' separation, she relocated from Winston-Salem, North Carolina to St. Petersburg, Florida, where she and her sister D'nette were raised by their social worker/civil servant mother.[4][5] Bassett did not see her father again for several years, when the two both attended her grandmother's funeral. There, Bassett met his daughter from his first marriage. Jean, who at twelve years old, was several years older than Bassett.[6] After graduating from Jordan Park Elementary School, she began being bussed out of her neighborhood to attend Disston Middle School for seventh grade. The year she began attending was 1970, the first year bussing was implemented to integrate public schools in St. Petersburg. After completing seventh grade, she was bussed to Azalea Middle School for eighth and ninth grade. Bassett's mother became more involved in her daughter's grades and told her and her sister the pair were going to college.[7]

In her younger years, Bassett was "in love" with the Jackson 5 and dreamed of marrying a member of the family group, stating it would probably be "whoever had the cutest, roundest Afro at the time. In my imagination we would have children and live in a real house."[6] As her interest in entertainment developed, Angela and her sister would often put on shows, reading poems or performing popular music for their family. At Boca Ciega High School, Bassett was a cheerleader and a member of the Upward Bound college prep program, the debate team, student government, drama club and choir. A straight "A" and "B" student for the most part, Bassett got her first "C" in physical education, and tried to get her mother to not feel disappointment in the grade. Bassett called the grade the "average," leading her mother to say that she did not have "average kids." As Bassett described, a "sense of pride" developed in her and she did not get another "C" until college.[8] During high school, Bassett became the first African-American from Boca Ciera to be admitted to the National Honor Society. She participated in Upward Bound, an academic and cultural enrichment program for underprivileged students. Bassett says she and the other participants did not see themselves as underprivileged.[9]

Bassett attended Yale University and received her B.A. degree in African-American studies in 1980. In 1983, she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Yale School of Drama, despite opposition from her father's sister who warned her to not "waste" her "Yale education on theater." She was the only member of Bassett's family to have gone to both college and graduate school.[8] At Yale, Bassett met her future husband Courtney B. Vance, a 1986 graduate of the drama school. Bassett was also classmates with actor Charles S. Dutton.[10] After graduation, Bassett worked as a receptionist for a beauty salon and as a photo researcher. Bassett soon looked for acting work in the New York theater. One of her first New York performances came in 1985 when she appeared in J. E. Franklin's Black Girl at Second Stage Theatre. She appeared in two August Wilson plays at the Yale Repertory Theatre under the direction of her long-time instructor Lloyd Richards. The Wilson plays featuring Bassett were Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984) and Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1986). In 2006, she had the opportunity to work on the Wilson canon again, starring in Fences alongside longtime collaborator Laurence Fishburne at the Pasadena Playhouse in California.


In 1985, Bassett made her first television appearance as a prostitute in the TV movie Doubletake. However, she made her official film debut as a news reporter in F/X (1986), for which she was required to join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).[11] Bassett moved to Los Angeles, California in 1988 for more acting jobs[12] and gained recognition in the films Boyz n the Hood (1991) and Malcolm X (1992). For her portrayal of Betty Shabazz, she earned an Image Award. Despite the award, the movie was not entirely given positive reception, being referred to by critics as failing to "capture" the rage of Malcolm X's autobiography.[13]

In 1992, Bassett played Katherine Jackson in The Jacksons: An American Dream. Bassett's agents tried to discourage her from playing the role, given the negative reception that Michael Jackson had. She admitted to not caring about the negative view of members of the Jackson family at the time, citing her childhood fondness of the group as an example of her passion for the project and believed her "instinct" about the role had been correct once learning of the positive reviews the miniseries received after airing.[14] During production of Malcolm X, Spike Lee showed Bassett a tape of the exact moment when Malcolm X was shot during his assassination, since they would be filming the scene. Bassett called the recording "haunting", but noted that after listening, she was "able to grab hold of the pain and re-create the scene." Bassett felt it was important for her to get the assassination scene correct, and wondered how Betty "found the strength to keep going, to raise her family, to educate, to sustain them."[15] Malcolm X was released on November 18, 1992.

Later that year, Bassett was cast as Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It (1993). Bassett returned to Los Angeles after Malcolm X filming was completed, and got a call for an audition for a movie based on I, Tina, Tina Turner's memoir.[16] Bassett won a Golden Globe and earned an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Turner. She was the first African-American to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Bassett obtained the role after beating Halle Berry and Robin Givens, but only had a month to prepare before shooting. She met Tina Turner twice, and was given advice by the woman she would be portraying from wigs and outfits to dancing styles. Turner also did Bassett's make up, leading Bassett to call her "supportive" and her "biggest fan." In regards to Turner as a person, Bassett said "Why? People keep asking me why Tina took it for so long? There are limits for her, for me, for everybody. One week was my mother's limit. It was her second husband. The man was nice and docile for four years of courtship. She got married to him on a Sunday. The following Saturday he raised his hand and fractured her nose. The next day the marriage was annulled. That was it. That's my example. So my limit is nil. For Tina, the limit was much longer."[12]

Bassett starred in three movies in 1995, which were released with varied reactions from critics: Vampire in Brooklyn, Strange Days, and Waiting to Exhale (where she worked with author Terry McMillan). In Strange Days, Bassett played Lornette "Mace" Mason, a chauffeur and bodyguard. In Vampire in Brooklyn, she played Rita Veder, a tortured cop with a dark secret. Bassett's character in Waiting to Exhale, Bernadine Harris, was betrayed by her husband and in revenge she set fire to his entire wardrobe and vehicle, then sold what was left for one dollar. Bassett described the then-recently filmed party scene and her character in Waiting to Exhale to the Orlando Sentinel. Bassett said, "The thing is that my character is thinking about how her husband has left her. I have a cigarette in one hand, and I'm drinking. Basically, the four of us are sitting there talking about men and having some fun."[17] Bassett described to the Orlando Sentinel going to one of Turner's concerts and crying profusely. According to Bassett, upon realizing that she knew some of Turner's dance moves, she was "almost a river of tears."[17]

In 1998, Bassett starred in How Stella Got Her Groove Back, once again collaborating with McMillan. She played Stella, a 40-year-old American professional woman who falls in love with a 20-year-old Jamaican man. In 1999, Bassett starred in Music of the Heart, once collaborating with the horror icon Wes Craven. In 2000, Bassett turned down the lead role in Monster's Ball because of the script's sexual content; the role earned Halle Berry the Academy Award for Best Actress.

In 2003, she read from the WPA slave narratives in Unchained Memories. In the 1930s, about 100,000 former slaves were still living during the Great Depression, of which 2,300 were interviewed part of the Federal Writers' Project. The transcripts of the Slave Narratives collection of the Library of Congress is a record of slavery, bondage and misery.

Bassett joined the regular cast of ER for the show's final season (2008–2009). She portrayed Dr. Catherine Banfield, an exacting Chief of the ER who was also working to recover from the death of a son and to bring another child into her family. Bassett's husband Courtney Vance played her television husband on ER as Russell Banfield. As well, Angela appeared in a heart breaking,and inspiring family movie called "of Boys and Men" in 2008(Wikipedia;Bounce TV). She co-starred alongside Robert Townsend, who played her husband in this movie.


In 2010, Bassett lent her voice to portray First Lady Michelle Obama[18] on an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Stealing First Base". Bassett was seen as a "terrific" fill in for Obama.[19] Bassett was also cast in the superhero film Green Lantern, released in 2011, as notable DC Comics character Amanda Waller.[20] In 2010, reported that Bassett would have a role in One Police Plaza.[21] In 2011, Bassett co-starred with Samuel L. Jackson in the play The Mountaintop a fictionalized depiction of the night before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King (Jackson portrays MLK) while at the Lorraine Motel. The critically acclaimed play by Katori Hall originally debuted in London's West End in 2009 and went on to win the Lawrence Olivier Award for Best New Play. The production opened on Broadway on October 13, 2011.

Bassett portrayed Coretta Scott King in the television film Betty and Coretta, which aired on February 2, 2013, continuing her trend of portraying real women. Bassett was surprised to learn after researching that Coretta initially refused Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "advances" and called Mrs. King a "modern day iconic heroine." While being asked about what drew her to play real-life women, Bassett answered "The respect that I have for their lives—their stories, vulnerabilities, strength, and resolve."[22] Bassett's involvement in the film was reported as early as August 2012. Production began in September of that year.[23] Mary J. Blige, when asked about what kind of experience it was to work with Bassett, said that she was "one of Angela's biggest fans" while calling her an "amazing woman."[24] The film received mix reviews, including negative reactions from Ilyasah Shabazz and Bernice King, the daughters of Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King. Bassett recently appeared as Secret Service director Lynne Jacobs in the action thriller Olympus Has Fallen, released in March 22, 2013. Bassett currently appears on FX TV show American Horror Story: Coven [21] as Marie Laveau, a voodoo witch.

Personal life[edit]

Bassett with her husband, Courtney B. Vance, March 1, 2007

Bassett married actor Courtney B. Vance in 1997. In the summer of 2005, they starred together in a production of His Girl Friday at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The couple's children – son Slater Josiah and daughter Bronwyn Golden - were born on January 27, 2006.[25][26][27] For the first ten years of marriage, Bassett and Vince lived in a home with five bedrooms and six bathrooms with "features" such as a gourmet kitchen, a master-bedroom suite and a hair salon among others. A year after the children's birth, Bassett and Vance placed their home for sale. The couple chose to list their home for sale because most of their neighbors had children that attended private schools, and they wanted theirs to attend public schools when they grew up.[28]

Bassett is a Christian.[29]

Bassett is an avid supporter of programs for the Arts, especially for youth. She annually attends events for children with diabetes and those in foster homes. She is an active Ambassador of UNICEF for the USA. Bassett is a big supporter of the Royal Theater Boys & Girls Club in her hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida. The Club is one of the first all performing arts Boys & Girls Clubs in the country.

She is represented by the Executive Speakers Bureau of Memphis.[30]

Bassett was initiated as an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. on July 13, 2013.[31]



1986F/XTV Reporter
1986LibertyLinda ThorntonTelevision movie
1988DoubletakeProstitute at HeadquartersTelevision movie
1990Kindergarten CopStewardess
1990Family of SpiesBev AndressTelevision movie
1990ChallengerCheryl McNairTelevision movie
1990In the Best Interest of the ChildLoriTelevision movie
1990Perry Mason: In the Case of the Silenced SingerCarla PetersTelevision movie
1991Line of Fire: The Morris Dees StoryPatTelevision movie
1991Critters 4Fran
1991Boyz n the HoodReva Devereaux
1991Heroes of Desert Storm, TheThe Heroes of Desert StormLt. Phoebe JeterTelevision movie
1991Locked Up: A Mother's RageWillieTelevision movie
1991One Special VictoryLoisTelevision movie
1991City of HopeReesha
1991Fire: Trapped on the 37th FloorAllisonTelevision movie
1992Passion FishDawn/Rhonda
1992Innocent BloodU.S. Attorney Sinclair
1992Jacksons: An American Dream, TheThe Jacksons: An American DreamKatherine JacksonTelevision movie
1992Malcolm XBetty Shabazz
1993What's Love Got to Do with ItAnna Mae Bullock/Tina Turner
1995Vampire in BrooklynDet. Rita Veder
1995PantherBetty Shabazz
1995Strange DaysLornette 'Mace' Mason
1995Waiting to ExhaleBernadine 'Bernie' Harris
1997ContactRachel Constantine
1998How Stella Got Her Groove BackStella
1999Our Friend, MartinMiles' MomVoice role
1999Music of the HeartPrincipal Janet Williams
2000SupernovaDr. Kaela Evers
2000Whispers: An Elephant's TaleGrooveVoice role
2000Boesman and LenaLena
2001Score, TheThe ScoreDiane
2001Ruby's Bucket of BloodRuby DelacroixTelevision movie
2002Sunshine StateDesiree Stokes Perry
2002The Rosa Parks StoryRosa ParksTelevision movie
2003Unchained MemoriesReader
2003Masked and AnonymousMistress
2004Lazarus Child, TheThe Lazarus ChildDr. Elizabeth Chase
2004Mr. 3000Maureen 'Mo' Simmons
2005Mr. & Mrs. SmithMr. Smith's BossUncredited voice role
2006Akeelah and the BeeTanya Anderson
2006Time BombJill GrecoTelevision movie
2007Meet the RobinsonsMildredVoice role
2008Gospel HillSarah Malcolm
2008Of Boys and MenRieta Cole
2008Meet the BrownsBrenda Brown
2008Nothing But the TruthBonnie Benjamin
2009NotoriousVoletta Wallace
2011Jumping the BroomMrs. Watson
2011Green LanternAmanda Waller
2012This Means WarCollins
2012I Ain't Scared Of YouHerself
2013Betty & CorettaCoretta Scott KingTelevision movie
2013Olympus Has FallenLynne Jacobs
2013Black NativityAretha Cobbs
2015London Has FallenLynne JacobsPre-production


1985Spenser: For HireJoe's DaughterEpisode: "The Choice"
1985Cosby Show, TheThe Cosby ShowMrs. MitchellEpisode: "Mr. Quiet"
1987Ryan's HopeLeonie PeachUnknown episodes
1988Cosby Show, TheThe Cosby ShowPaulaEpisode: "Bookworm"
1989Man Called Hawk, AA Man Called HawkBailey Webster3 episodes
1989Tour of DutyLt. Camilla Patterson2 episodes
1989227Amy BurnettEpisode: "A Pampered Tale"
1989ThirtysomethingKate HarritonEpisode: "Legacy"
1990Alien NationRenee LongstreetEpisode: "Eyewitness News"
1990Equal JusticeJanet FieldsEpisode: "Goodbye, Judge Green"
1991Flash, TheThe FlashLinda LakeEpisode: "Beat the Clock"
1991StatDr. Willie BurnsEpisode: "Ladyfinger"
1992Nightmare CafeEvelynEpisode: "Sanctuary for a Child"
1995Get SmartUncredited role as Runway ModelEpisode: "Pilot"
2003Freedom: A History of UsSheyann WebbEpisode: "Marching to Freedom Land"
2003Freedom: A History of UsMelba PattilloEpisode: "Let Freedom Ring"
2003The Bernie Mac ShowHerselfEpisode: "Laughing Matters"
2005AliasCIA Director Hayden Chase4 episodes
2008–09ERDr. Cate Banfield16 episodes
2010Simpsons, TheThe SimpsonsFirst Lady Michelle ObamaEpisode: "Stealing First Base"
2013–14American Horror Story: CovenMarie Laveau12 episodes
2014American Horror Story: Freak Show[32]TBD

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ Excerpt from "FRIENDS: A Love Story" Faithful
  2. ^ Bassett, Angela (2009), p. 11.
  3. ^ Bassett, Angela (2009), pp. 12-13.
  4. ^ "Angela Bassett Biography (1958–)". Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  5. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (1993-06-23). "As Tina Turner, Wig to High Heels –". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  6. ^ a b Bassett, Angela (2009), pp. 18-19.
  7. ^ Bassett, Angela (2009), pp. 23-24.
  8. ^ a b "Angela Bassett's Aha! Moment". September 2008. 
  9. ^ Bassett, Angela (2009), pp. 29-31.
  10. ^ Johnson, Erick (January 23, 2014). "CELEBRITIES, COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS PUT GUN VIOLENCE IN THE SPOTLIGHT". South Florida Times. 
  11. ^ "How Did You Get Your SAG-AFTRA Card?" TV Guide. January 13, 2014. p. 10.
  12. ^ a b Weinraub, Bernard (June 23, 1993). "As Tina Turner, Wig to High Heels". New York Times. 
  13. ^ Boyar, Jay (July 23, 1993). "'X' Fails To Capture Rage Of Autobiography". Orlando Sentinel. 
  14. ^ Bassett, Angela (2009), pp. 152-153.
  15. ^ Bassett, Angela, (2009), pp. 154-155.
  16. ^ Bassett, Angela, (2009), p. 156.
  17. ^ a b "Tough Angela Bassett Is A Real Softy". Orlando Sentinel. December 22, 1995. 
  18. ^ "FoxFlash". FoxFlash. Archived from the original on 24 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  19. ^ "Michelle Obama Visits The Simpsons". The Hollywood Gossip. March 22, 2010. 
  20. ^ By (2010-03-24). "Angela Bassett joins 'Green Lantern' Cast @ Variety". Archived from the original on 28 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  21. ^ a b "Angela Bassett Cast in ABC's One Police Plaza". Retrieved November 18, 2010. 
  22. ^ Pak, Eudie (February 1, 2013). "Angela Bassett: ‘Betty & Coretta’ Became Sisters Through Tragedy". 
  23. ^ "Bassett to Play Coretta Scott King in Lifetime Movie". The Hollywood Reporter. August 23, 2012. 
  24. ^ Morales, Wilson (January 29, 2013). "Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige talk ‘Betty & Coretta’". Black Film. 
  25. ^ Introducing Slater and Bronwyn ANGELA, COURTNEY, SLATER & BRONWYN at People Magazine Photo Special
  26. ^ "ANGELA BASSETT IS A BUSY WORKING MOM" September 19, 2008, Black Celeb Kids
  27. ^ "Bssett and Vance On Oprah" Oprahcom
  28. ^ "Angela Bassett, kids seek a home". Orlando Sentinel. August 26, 2007. 
  29. ^ "15 Black Celebrities Who are Sold Out For Jesus". 
  30. ^ "Executive Speakers Bureau, Angela Bassett". Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  31. ^ "[Photos] Actress Angela Bassett & Susan L Taylor Become Members of Delta Sigma Theta". theJasmineBRAND. Retrieved 2013-11-30. 
  32. ^

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]