Angela Bassett

Actor

Birthdate – August 16, 1958 (64 Years Old)

Birthplace – New York City, New York

Angela Bassett (birthname: Angela Evelyn Bassett) is an actor with a commanding presence and regal elegance that sets her apart from nearly every other actor of her generation. Although unaccountably only once nominated for an Oscar, she is a figure drawing universal respect among actors and filmmaking colleagues and known for her portrayals of historic characters, including Dr. Betty Shabazz (Malcolm X and Panther), Tina Turner (What’s Love Got to Do with It), Janet Williams (Music of the Heart), and Rosa Parks (The Rosa Parks Story), her repeated appearances in films directed by major American indie voices Spike Lee and John Sayles, and as Ramonda in the MCU-produced Black Panther movies.

A few years after earning her Master’s at Yale School of Drama, Bassett landed her first films roles in minor spots in F/X (1986), Kindergarten Cop (1990), and Critters 4 (1991), followed by more significant roles in such as features as writer-director John Singleton’s debut, Boyz n the Hood (1991), with Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, and Laurence Fishburne (credited here as “Larry Fishburne”); and editor-writer-director John Sayles’ drama, City of Hope (1991), with Vincent Spano, Tony Lo Bianco, Joe Morton, Todd Graff, and David Strathairn.

Angela Bassett’s first major role was her sharp portrayal of Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s wife in writer-director Spike Lee’s Malcolm X (1992), starring Denzel Washington, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo, and Lee. Bassett reunited with Sayles for his drama Passion Fish (1992), starring Mary McDonnell, Alfre Woodard, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and David Strathairn. For her first starring role as Tina Turner in the biopic, What’s Love Got to Do with It (1993), Bassett gained her only Best Actress Oscar nomination to date, opposite Laurence Fishburne and Jenifer Lewis.

In a rare case of an actor portraying the same historical figure in two different movies made less than two years apart from each other, Bassett played Shabazz once more in a cameo in the Mario Van Peebles/Melvin Van Peebles biopic, Panther (1995), with Kadeem Hardison, Bokeem Woodbine, Joe Don Baker, and Courtney B. Vance.

Although the movie was a financial bomb, Kathryn Bigelow’s punk thriller, Strange Days (1995), with Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, and Vincent D’Onofrio, provided Bassett with one of the most extreme and adventurous roles in her then-young career. Now having earned co-starring and face-on-the-poster status, Bassett co-starred with Eddie Murphy in Wes Craven’s vampire comedy, Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), with Kadeem Hardison, Zakes Mokae, and W. Earl Brown, which earned $35 million globally on a $14 million budget.

In one of her biggest hit movies, Angela Bassett co-starred with pop superstar Whitney Houston in debuting director Forest Whitaker’s feature version of Terry McMillan’s best-seller, Waiting to Exhale (1995), with Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon, and grossing $82 million globally. Bassett became the go-to gal for McMillan movie adaptations (this one co-written by McMillan and Ron Bass), playing the titular role in the more modestly successful

How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998), with Taye Diggs, Regina King, and Whoopi Goldberg. Bassett joined the cast of director Robert Zemeckis’ production of Carl Sagan’s speculative fiction, Contact (1997), with Matthew McConaughey, Jodie Foster, James Woods, John Hurt, and Tom Skerritt. Bassett reunited with director Craven in a non-horror setting for the true-life story of a Harlem-based music teacher, Music of the Heart (1999), starring Meryl Streep, Aidan Quinn, and Gloria Estefan, followed by the failed sci-fi thriller, Supernova (2000), for which original director Walter Hill removed his name from the credits (for “Thomas Lee”), with uncredited re-shoots by Jack Shoulder, and a cast including James Spader, Robert Forster, and Lou Diamond Phillips.

In one of her most distinguished films to that date, Bassett co-starred with Danny Glover in the John Berry-directed, South African-produced film version of Athol Fugard’s play, Boesman and Lena (2000) and then jumped into the high-tension crime drama directed by Frank Oz, The Score (2001), opposite Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, and Marlon Brando.

As a regular part of filmmaker John Sayles’ actors stable, Angela Bassett played a lead role in Sayles’ northern Florida-set Sunshine State (2002) alongside Jane Alexander, Bill Cobbs, Edie Falco, Timothy Hutton, Alan King, and Mary Steenburgen. In one of her more notable projects, Bassett joined renegade filmmaker Larry Charles for Masked and Anonymous (2003), a wild saga written by and starring Bob Dylan (taking the odd credit of “Sergei Petrov”), with Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Penelope Cruz, Luke Wilson, and Jessica Lange, followed by the Warner Bros. horror entry, The Lazarus Child (2004), with Andy Garcia and Frances O’Connor, and the commercially disappointing Bernie Mac baseball comedy, Mr. 3000 (2004), with Paul Sorvino and Chris Noth.

Angela Bassett bounced back as co-star with Laurence Fishburne in the hit indie drama from writer-director Doug Atchison, Akeelah and the Bee (2006), featuring then-12-year-old Keke Palmer and Curtis Armstrong, and grossing over three times its $6 million price tag. Although a commercial bomb, the animated Meet the Robinsons (2007) marked Bassett’s first voice performance in a major (Disney) animated feature alongside Tom Selleck, Laurie Metcalf, and Adam West. Angela Bassett entered the world of writer-director Tyler Perry with the rom-com, Meet the Browns (2008), with Jenifer Lewis, David Mann, Perry, and former Laker Rick Fox, grossing a healthy global total of $42 million (on $20 million costs).

Bassett entered a different world for one of her next features, the George Tillman Jr.-directed Notorious (2009), about late rapper The Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls, and starring Jamal Woolard, Derek Luke, and Anthony Mackie, and earning double its $20 million budget for over $44 million globally. Even more successful ($38 million gross on a $6.6 million budget) was the Sony rom-com, Jumping the Broom (2011), with Bassett topping a cast including Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Loretta Devine, Meagan Good, and Mike Epps.

Marking her first appearance in the superhero genre, Angela Bassett co-starred in the failed DC Comics saga Green Lantern (2011) with Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, and Tim Robbins, and barely reached even the box office with its $200 million price tag.

Bassett played a supporting role in the romcom/spy comedy, This Means War (2012) with Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy, and Chris Pine, followed by a major supporting role in the Antoine Fuqua-directed thriller Olympus Has Fallen (2013), starring Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Robert Forster, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo, and Dylan McDermott, and grossing over $170 million worldwide (which Bassett followed up within the same role of Secret Service Director Jacobs in the 2016 London Has Fallen).

Angela Bassett won an NAACP Image Best Actress Award for her lead performance in director Kasi Lemmons’ adaptation of Langston Hughes’ 1961 play, Black Nativity (2013), co-starring Forest Whitaker, Tyrese Gibson, Jacob Latimore, Mary J. Blige, and Jennifer Hudson.

Bassett joined up with another highly regarded American indie filmmaker—in this case, writer-director Gregg Araki—for the drama White Bird in a Blizzard (2014), starring Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Gabourey Sibide, and Thomas Jane. Bassett’s next significant role (with Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Teyonah Parris, Jennifer Hudson, John Cusack, and Samuel L. Jackson) was a reunion with filmmaker Spike Lee for his Chicago-set musical, Chi-Raq (2015), the first film produced by Amazon Studios, and its first to go out first theatrically and then to stream.

Angela Bassett achieved new-found mass audience prominence as part of the stunning ensemble of Ryan Coogler’s acclaimed MCU saga, Black Panther (2018), in which she assumed the royal role of Ramonda, joining the late Chadwick Boseman (in the titular role), Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, and Winston Duke. No previous movie in which Bassett co-starred or co-starred has come close to Black Panther’s global box office total of $1.35 billion. In 2022, Bassett resumed her Ramonda four years later in the sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), with the same cast (minus the sadly departed Boseman) returning under Coogler’s direction.

This was a period of mega-earning blockbusters for Bassett, including writer-director Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible—Fallout (2018), with Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Sean Harris, and Alec Baldwin, grossing nearly $792 million worldwide, followed by Angela Bassett voicing a shape-shifting Decepticon in the sixth, successful edition (and reboot) of Paramount’s Transformers franchise, Bumblebee (2018), with Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, and Pamela Adlon, and grossing $468 million globally, or four times costs.

Bassett returned as Ramonda in the uber-blockbuster for Marvel, Avengers: Endgame (2019), starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, and Scarlett Johansson, and grossing an all-time record (at the time) of $2.798 billion worldwide.

Bassett’s second foray with Disney was another disappointment, a rare miss for the Pixar division; the Pete Docter-directed Soul (2020), nominated for three Oscars and starring Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Phylicia Rashad, and Questlove, and earning $121 million globally, far short of even its $150 million price tag. Bassett joined the female ensemble of Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Chloe Coleman for writer-director Navot Papushado’s thriller for Netflix (theatrical and streaming), Gunpowder Milkshake (2021).

Along with Wakanda Forever, Angela Bassett’s 2022 included a vocal performance for the creative stop-motion animator Henry Selick for his Netflix-released (theatrical and streaming) feature Wendell & Wild, produced and starring Jordan Peele with his comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key. Bassett worked in the fantasy genre for director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Damsel (2023), starring Millie Bobby Brown, Nick Robinson, Robin Wright, Ray Winstone, and Shohreh Aghdashloo.

For Laika studio, Bassett voiced a role in the animated version of Colin Meloy’s illustrated fantasy book, Wildwood (date to be announced), with the cast of Carey Mulligan, Mahershala Ali, Peyton Elizabeth Lee, Jacob Tremblay, Awkwafina, Jake Johnson, Charlie Day, Tom Waits, and Richard E. Grant.

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Personal Details

Angela Bassett was born in New York City to her parents Betty (social worker) and Daniel Bassett. After being raised between ages one and four by her aunt, Golden Bassett, Angela Bassett was raised by her mother Betty Bassett in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her younger sister D’nette. Bassett has an older half-sister from her father Daniel’s previous marriage. After attending Jordan Park Elementary School, Bassett attended Disston Middle School and then Azalea Middle School.

Bassett was the first African American student at Boca Ciega High School to earn admittance to the National Honor Society. Bassett earned a scholarship to Yale University, where she graduated in 1980 with a B.A. degree in African American Studies. She earned her Master of Arts degree from the Yale School of Drama; Bassett also earned an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Yale in 2018. Bassett has been married to actor Courtney B. Vance since 1997; the couple has two children Her height is 5’ 4. Bassett’s estimated net worth is $25 million.

Filmography

London Has Fallen

Lynne Jacobs (2016)

Olympus Has Fallen

Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs (2013)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

(2022)

Some Facts About Angela Bassett

Yalies: An enthusiastic Yale drama school alum, Angela Bassett attended the school with fellow renowned actors Charles S. Dutton and Courtney B. Vance.

Causes: Bassett has helped raise awareness and support for foster children and children with diabetes. She has also raised support for the Boys & Girls Club of St. Petersburg, Florida, where she lived for most of her childhood and adolescence. Bassett is an Ambassador for UNICEF for the U.S. 

Side Gigs: Angela Bassett has worked as a photo researcher for U.S. News & World Report.

Ancestry: As a guest on the TV program, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in 2012, Bassett learned her ancestry extended to Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Cameroon, Congo, Mali, Angola, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Senegal.

Awards

Nominee, Best Actress, Academy Awards (1994); Nine-time Nominee, Emmy Awards (1996, 2002-2003, 2014-2015, 2017, 2019-2020); Nominee, Best Director—Movie for TV or Mini-Series (2016); Winner, Best Actress, Golden Globes Awards (1994); Winner, Best Motion Picture Cast, Screen Actors Guild Awards (2019); Winner, Hollywood Walk of Fame Star (2008).