On the second to last day in Black History Month, we're so happy to celebrate and highlight the truly iconic and incredible actress, director, producer and in every way amazing Angela Bassett, who's appeared in more than 50 films, 50 tv projects and numerous stage productions during a career that's spanned nearly four decades.
How You Know Her
She's the Queen Mother of Wakanda in "Black Panther." She's one of the voices in Pixar's "Soul." She's starred in multiple seasons and directed episodes of "American Horror Story." She's Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise's boss in "Mission: Impossible – Fallout." She's Betty Shabazz in "Malcolm X," Coretta Scott King in the tv film "Betty & Coretta," Rosa Parks in "The Rosa Parks Story" and Tina Turner in "What's Love Got to Do With It."
She was also Cuba Gooding Jr.'s mom in "Boyz in the Hood," Akeelah's mom in the spelling bee gem "Akeelah and the Bee," the star of two Terry McMillan book adaptations (the romance dramas "Waiting to Exhale" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back"), and the Director of the Secret Service in both "Olympus Has Fallen" and "London Has Fallen."
If you need a strong, resourceful, intelligent, beautiful and wise Black woman onscreen or off, Bassett is the Queen.
Their Life So Far
Bassett was born in 1958 in New York City, but grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her mother, Betty Jane, was a social worker and civil servant who taught her, and her sister D'nette, never to settle for anything less than excellence. Bassett took that sentiment to heart, excelling in high school as a student, cheerleader, and member of the debate team, choir, student government, drama club and Upward Bound college prep program.
She attended Yale University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in African American studies. She then went on to complete her Master of Fine Arts at Yale, and was classmates with her future husband, actor Courtney B. Vance, and fellow accomplished actor Charles S. Dutton.
After small roles in film and television, Bassett earned major attention with both "Boyz n the Hood" and "Malcolm X." During the '90s, and beyond, she became extremely busy in her career, appearing in projects nearly non-stop. Besides Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King, she played the real-life matriarch Katherine Jackson, mother to Michael and Janet and the rest of the Jackson kids, in "The Jacksons: An American Dream." That was a dream, too, for Bassett, who had been a fan of The Jackson 5 since she was a child.
While she's been noted for so many roles over the years, a stand-out in her filmography is her much acclaimed role as pop singer and abuse survivor Tina Turner in "What's Love Got to Do With It?" For her performance, she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Over the last 20 years, she's been a constant presence on the big and small screen, but modern audiences might know her best for her constantly-shifting roles on Ryan Murphy's "American Horror Story," playing a voodoo witch, a movie star, and a struggling alcoholic. She's been nominated for several Primetime Emmys for the show, along with additional Emmy nominations for "Master of None" and "The Rosa Parks Story."
The Movie to Watch
Angela Bassett fans are highly recommended to watch, or rewatch, "What's Love Got to Do With It?" It's a powerful, harrowing tale about Tina Turner's volatile relationship with her former husband and abuser Ike Turner, but it's also an incredibly affecting story about Turner's ultimate resilience and triumph. Bassett lays bare all the emotional experience, and the film is one of the best music biopics ever produced.
What's Up Next
She'll appear in an upcoming documentary about the singer, simply titled "Tina," and Bassett is also set to star in "Gunpowder Milkshake," about three generations of female assassins coming together on one night to stop a violent cabal.
More Black History Month Highlights:
About the Author
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.