With almost three decades worth of roles under her belt, the name Angela Bassett still elicits both deep admiration and awe. If mainstream Hollywood has Meryl Streep up on a pedestal, Angela is easily the Grande Dame of Black Hollywood. From her explosive roles as the iconic Tina Turner to her car burning, woman-done-wrong role as Bernadine in “Waiting To Exhale” – there really isn’t anything the Ivy League trained thespian can’t do.
You’d think with such a stellar filmography, she’d have a right to indulge in some diva behavior. While Angela has helped to define the prototype of the “Strong Black Woman,” in actuality the talented actress is humble and gracious. When excited her speech belies her Southern roots (she grew up in St. Petersburg, FL) and is as inviting as a basket of fresh baked buttered biscuits. Even when she cusses (during this interview), she’s still a lady.
The Urban Daily caught up with Bassett to get the scoop on her new role as Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs in “Olympus Has Fallen,” working with fellow acting heavyweight Morgan Freeman, the status of the “Waiting To Exhale” sequel and how she’s raising her daughter in a country where it’s open season on Black girls and women.
TUD: This is your first time working with Morgan Freeman. What was that experience like?
Angela Bassett: It was wonderful. I have been such an admirer of him and his work. I was actually intimidated. I mean how do I stand up against that? I think he must have a photographic memory because he’d memorize long passages of dialogue so quickly.
So I heard that Morgan would actually sing between takes. What songs or artists was he singing?
Very old school music like Sam And Dave or Earth, Wind and Fire. I’m not sure if that was his way to relax or it could be that he really loves music! It’s funny because that is nowhere near what I expected from Morgan because he’s so serious and has a “suffer no fools” demeanor.
Recently you joined Twitter Follow @ImAngelaBassett and Facebook. What’s it been like in the wild, wild space of social media?
It’s good most times but then I’m the type of person who wants to satisfy everyone’s requests, but you can only do but so much of that. [When] you don’t know what’s real, you have to ascertain what’s legitimate. I’ve had a distant cousin reach out to me and also some friends from high school so that’s nice.
What’s the strangest request you’ve gotten so far?
Someone from prison. I’m trying to remember – was he still in prison or just out of prison? He wanted someone to write a screenplay about his life story and have Denzel Washington play his daddy. I guess I was supposed to get in touch with Denzel (chuckles).
You’re currently filming “Black Nativity” in New York. How’s it been shooting in the Big Apple?
Wonderful! I haven’t been in New York since “Malcolm X.” We’re filming up in Harlem as a matter of fact. Kasi Lemmons wrote the script and is also directing. She’s so talented [and] such a joy to work with. We used to come up and audition in New York when we were both starting out as actresses, and then we’d hang out afterwards, not caring if we got the job or not. So to see her growth and maturation, I was really happy to see that.
Since “Black Nativity” is a musical, can we expect to see you do any singing?
Of course, it’s a full on musical and dancing too! It felt more like preparing for a play because we had three full weeks of rehearsal before shooting. It’s great that I get to act opposite Forest Whitaker – the first time we worked together he was behind the camera directing “Waiting To Exhale.”
Will Forest be coming back to direct the “Waiting To Exhale” sequel?
I think he was thinking about it. The project has always been in flux. I did ask him on set. For Forest it all comes down to the story and how you’re going to tell it. That’s his number one priority right now. Especially in light of Whitney.
Is the plan to recast the Savannah character?
Exactly, that’s what I mean. How do you recast her? Or do you bring in a new character?