Angela Bassett is now nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her tear-jerking performance as Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022). The acting powerhouse has conquered every stage in a dynamic career. Here is the evolution of Angela Bassett.
Born in New York
Angela Evelyn Bassett was born on August 16, 1958, to Betty Jane Bassett who worked for the Health and Human Services Agency, and Daniel Bassett in New York, New York. Her parents split up soon after her younger sister was born, and Basssett was then taken in by her aunt until the age of 5. She continued to not have a close relationship with her father throughout her childhood.
Interest in Acting
Angela and her sister moved with their mother to St. Petersburg, Florida. On a high school trip to Washington D.C., her class went to see “Of Mice and Men” starring James Earl Jones at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. From that moment she knew that she wanted to pursue acting.
Yale School of Drama
The determined young Bassett went on to attend Yale University on scholarship receiving her bachelor’s in African American studies in 1980 and an MFA at the Yale School of Drama in 1983. She later received an honorary doctorate from Yale.
Bassett Meets Her Future Husband
While obtaining her MFA at Yale, Bassett met her husband, fellow actor, Courtney B. Vance. They didn’t know much of each other at the time but reunited in 1994 after both of their acting careers took off. The two went on a first date, but Angela claimed it wasn’t memorable because he was “boring.” After a second, and far more successful date, to play golf the two began to fall for each other and continued dating.
Bassett’s first major performances after graduating were two August Wilson plays in New York City, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” in 1984 and “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” in 1986. Her first few roles in television were as Alice in Spenser: For Hire (1985), a prostitute in Doubletake (1985), Selena McCulla in Search for Tomorrow (1985), and a TV reporter for the film F/X in 1986. In 1988, she officially moved to Los Angeles to expand her career opportunities.
Malcolm X and more
After moving to Los Angeles, Bassett started guest starring in major television shows such as The Cosby Show (1985-1988), 227 (1989), Tour of Duty (1989), and Equal Justice (1990). In 1991, Bassett landed one of her first major movie roles as Reva Styles in Boyz N the Hood (1991). She also starred in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X (1992) alongside Denzel Washington as his wife, Betty Shabazz, and as Katherine Jackson in The Jacksons: An American Dream (1992).
Becoming Tina Turner
After the success of her role in Malcolm X, Bassett was called to audition for a movie based on Tina Turner’s memoir, I, Tina. She beat out Halle Berry and Robin Givens for the role of Tina Turner, solidifying her spot in Hollywood. Bassett only had a month to prepare for her transformation into the legendary singer. She used every resource she could find, reading the book many times. She also met Tina Turner twice for advice on the role.
Golden Globe Winner
What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993) was wildly successful for Angela Bassett, with some people believing it is her best role yet. Bassett received several nominations and awards for her heart-wrenching performance in the film. She was nominated for an Academy Award but did not win. However, she was the first African American to win a Golden Globe for Best Actress- Motion Picture- Musical/Comedy in 1994.
Waiting to Exhale
In 1995, Bassett starred in Strange Days, Vampire in Brooklyn alongside Eddie Murphy, and the beloved Waiting to Exhale. Waiting to Exhale is still cherished today for blessing us with Whitney Houston, Loretta Devine, Lela Rochon, and Bassett as best friends in the film. We were also able to witness that iconic scene of Bassett’s character, Bernadine, setting fire to her husband’s car and belongings as she walks away, cigarette in hand.
Married to Courtney B. Vance
In October 1997, Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance were married right before Bassett started filming How Stella Got Her Groove Back. In 1998, Bassett played yet another badass on screen, Stella Payne, who in her 40s falls in love with a 20-something-year-old, played by Taye Diggs.
The Rosa Parks Story
In 2001 Bassett starred in The Score as Diane with Robert De Niro. In 2002, Bassett was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her dynamic role as Rosa Parks in The Rosa Parks Story. She also appeared in Mr. 3000 (2004) with Bernie Mac and The Lazarus Child (2004).
Becoming a Mother, On and Off Screen
Before taking on the role of the stubborn and outspoken mother of Akeelah (Keke Palmer) in Akeelah and the Bee (2006), Bassett became a mother in real life. In January 2006, Bassett and Vance welcomed twins via surrogate, Slater Josiah and Bronwyn Golden.
Fast forward to the 2010s, Bassett got her first introduction into the superhero realm, starring in DC’s Green Lantern as Doctor Waller. In 2011, Bassett was cast in the star-studded film, Jumping the Broom as Mrs. Watson. In 2013, she played Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs in Olympus Has Fallen, returning to the role in 2016 for London Has Fallen. In 2013, Bassett had a career “first” by using her own voice to sing in the film Black Nativity.
American Horror Story
Angela started one of her most iconic television series roles as Marie Laveau in American Horror Story: Coven in 2013. She has played several characters on the show, appearing in almost 50 episodes. She has received two Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her performances in this show.
In 2014, Bassett made her directing debut for the TV film, Whitney, starring Yaya DaCosta. However, the Houston family did not approve of the Lifetime film, and her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, was vocal about her anger at not being cast in the film.
In 2018, Bassett began starring in and producing FOX’s 9-1-1. She plays first responder Athena Grant and is in the crossover series, 9-1-1: Lone Star. She has received 3 BET Award nominations for Best Actress as Athena Grant.
In February 2018, we were introduced to Bassett’s portrayal of Queen Ramonda in Marvel’s Black Panther. Her character also appeared in Avengers: Endgame (2019) and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022). She has been nominated for and won many awards for her role including a Golden Globe (won), BET Award (nominated), Critics Choice Award (won), Screen Actors Guild Award (won), and BAFTA.
2023 Award Season, Historic Win
Bassett became the first person in history to win a Golden Globe for a Marvel film in January 2023, winning for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any motion picture. On January 24, 2023, Bassett was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022).