Angela Bassett Biography: Inside the Life of an American Actress

Angela Bassett attended Yale School of Drama before starring in the Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It, for which she got an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe Award. Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Strange Days, Supernova, and Mr. 3000 are among her other features. In 1997, she married fellow actor Courtney B. Vance.

Early Life and Career

Angela Evelyn Bassett, born on August 16, 1958 in New York City’s Harlem area, is best known for her many dramatic roles in cinema, television, and on stage. Bassett was raised in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her sister, D’nette, by her single mother, Betty, a social worker. She was inspired to act during a high school trip after seeing a Kennedy Center performance of the classic narrative Of Mice and Men, starring James Earl Jones.

Encouraged by a teacher, Bassett went on to receive a B.A. in Afro-American Studies and an M.F.A. in acting at Yale. She studied under renowned stage director Lloyd Richards, who cast her in two August Wilson plays, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, on Broadway.

Movies and TV Shows

‘Malcolm X,’ ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It,’ ‘The Rosa Parks Story’

Despite her early stage success, Bassett had to work hard to break through the conventional roles that are typically allotted to African-American women on screen. Her first role was a cameo in the cult classic F/X (1986). She played a pivotal role in John Singleton’s groundbreaking anti-gang film Boyz ‘N the Hood in 1991. A year later, she was cast as Katherine Jackson, mother of the Jackson Five, in The Jacksons: An American Dream (1992). Bassett continued to play powerful female parts when she played Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s widow, in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X (1992), which starred Denzel Washington in the lead role.

Basset received her first Emmy nomination for The Rosa Parks Story in 1992, and she also received an Academy Award nod for Best Actress for her breakout role as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It? (1993).

‘Waiting to Exhale,’ ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back’

In 1995, Bassett co-starred with Whitney Houston in the film adaption of Terry McMillan’s Waiting To Exhale. She starred in another McMillan adaption, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, in 1998. Bassett played a top-level presidential advisor in Jodie Foster’s extraterrestrial-encounter thriller Contact (1997). Bassett returned to the stage in 1998, costarring with Alec Baldwin in Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in New York City.

‘ER,’ ‘Akeelah and the Bee’

Bassett, a skilled performer, has continued to take on a varied range of assignments. In 2005, she co-starred with her husband Courtney B. Vance in a regional production of His Girl Friday. From 2008 to 2009, the couple also appeared together in the final season of the hit television program ER.

Bassett appeared in the 2006 film Akeelah and the Bee alongside Keke Palmer and Laurence Fishburne. She portrayed the mother of an inner-city spelling bee vying for a national title. In the 2009 film Notorious, Bassett portrayed the mother of deceased rapper Christopher “Biggie” Wallace. In 2011, she participated in many films, including the wedding comedy Jump the Broom and the Green Lantern comic book adaption.

‘Betty & Coretta,’ ‘Olympus Has Fallen’

Bassett made her Broadway debut in The Mountaintop, alongside Samuel L. Jackson. She portrayed a maid who visits civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. prior to his assassination. On television, she portrayed Coretta Scott King, King’s widow, in the 2013 film Betty & Coretta, alongside Mary J. Blige as Betty Shabazz. That same year, she starred in Olympus Has Fallen as Secret Service director Lynn Jacobs and in a film adaptation of Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity, alongside Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson.

‘American Horror Story’

Bassett has since gone on to star in a number of TV shows and films, including appearances on American Horror Story, where she played Marian Laveau, the “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans,” in the third season, Coven, for which she received two Emmy nods. Bassett garnered another Emmy nod for her role as Desiree Dupree, a three-breasted lady, in American Horror Story: Freak Show’s fourth season.In the fifth season of Hotel, she played movie star Ramona Royale, and in the sixth season of Roanoke, she played alcoholic actress Monet Tumusiime.

‘Black Panther,’ ‘9-1-1’

In 2018’s Black Panther, Bassett portrayed Dowager Queen Ramonda, Queen Mother of Wakanda. Bassett also played Athena in the TV drama 9-1-1, where she also acted as a producer.

Chi-Raq (2015), London Has Fallen (2016), Black Panther (2018), and Mission Impossible — Fallout (2018) are some of Bassett’s other film efforts.

Personal Life

Bassett is married to Courtney B. Vance, an actress. On October 12, 1997, they married. In 2006, the couple became parents to twins. A surrogate delivered son Slater and daughter Bronwyn.

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