Family & Companions
Golden Globe-winning actress Angela Bassett was often associated with notable African-American cultural figures like Rosa Parks, Betty Shabazz, and Tina Turner, all of whom she portrayed on the big and small screens to critical acclaim. But when she was not ably filling the shoes of such important, multi-dimensional female icons in films like "What's Love Got to Do With It" (1992) and "Malcolm X" (1992), Bassett created equally compelling portraits of independent modern women audiences could relate to in "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" (1998) and "Meet the Browns" (2008). Bassett's stage training and open, expressive face - not to mention her sheer beauty - made her one of Hollywood's most versatile African-American actresses, admired by the black community to the tune of nearly a dozen NAACP Image Award nominations, and a universal appeal that saw her navigate between film and television and comedy and drama seemingly without effort, leaving a lasting impact with the powerful, purposeful women she left behind on screen. Aging gracefully, Bassett began doing character work in films ranging from romantic comedy "This Means War" (2012) to action thriller "Olympus Has Fallen" (2013) and its sequel "London Has Fallen" (2016) to Marvel blockbuster "Black Panther" (2018) while delivering scares in the anthology series "American Horror Story" (FX, 2011- ).
Born on Aug. 16, 1958 in New York City, NY, Bassett was raised in St. Petersburg, FL by a social worker single mother. A school field trip to see a live stage performance of "Of Mice and Men" starring James Earl Jones ignited Bassett's interest in acting, though the accomplished teen was already making a name for herself as an outstanding student - the first black student from her high school to be accepted into the National Honor Society - in addition to participating in student government, the debate team, and the choir. With excellent academic and extracurricular records, Bassett was offered a scholarship to Yale University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in African-American Studies before deciding to pursue theater seriously. While working towards a Masters degree at the Yale School of Drama (and dating future husband and fellow acting student, Courtney B. Vance), Bassett began a valuable association with the dean, celebrated stage director Lloyd Richards, who cast her in his 1984 Broadway production of August Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Her promising start led to steady work in television, including guest shots on "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992) and the detective drama "Spenser: For Hire" (ABC, 1985-88), as well as a brief turn on the CBS miniseries "Doubletake" (CBS, 1985).
With the action thriller "F/X" (1986), Bassett moved into features, though TV guest roles continued to make up the bulk of her work throughout the 1980s - with the exception of a 1988 return to Broadway in August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" and a supporting role as the wife of ill-fated astronaut Ronald McNair in the ABC television movie, "Challenger" (1990). The actress had a landmark year in 1991, first gaining notice in John Singleton's "Boyz in the Hood" (1991), a critically acclaimed look at the realities of life in South Central Los Angeles, where Bassett played an ambitious mother (and estranged wife of Laurence Fishburne) struggling to keep her young son on the right side of the law. From her supporting role in this NAACP Image Award winner for Outstanding Motion Picture, Bassett went on to play the "do-gooder" wife of politician Joe Morton in John Sayles' sprawling contemplation of corruption and community in "City of Hope" (1991). Meanwhile on the small screen, Bassett appeared in no fewer than five network television movies in 1991, including a portrayal of a real-life Patriot missile commander who endures the death of a grandmother while serving in the military in "Heroes of Desert Storm" (ABC, 1991).
Bassett's career momentum took off the following year with an NAACP Image Award-winning portrayal of Betty Shabazz, the quietly strong wife of activist and preacher Malcolm X in Spike Lee's epic "Malcolm X" (1992). After receiving more raves for her portrayal of Katherine Jackson, the King of Pop's mom, in the miniseries "The Jacksons: An American Dream" (ABC, 1992), a lean and pumped-up Bassett gave an Academy Award-nominated starring performance in "What's Love Got To Do With It" (1993). Bassett's riveting and thoroughly convincing portrayal of three decades in the tumultuous life of pop icon Tina Turner put the actress through her paces and transformed her career, with a Golden Globe nomination and another Image Award win. Now a full-fledged Hollywood leading actress, Bassett was tapped for the millennial sci-fi actioner "Strange Days" (1995) and the Eddie Murphy horror comedy vehicle "Vampire in Brooklyn" (1995), both of which sought to build upon her image as a strong black woman but watered down her impact with such characters by giving her firearms and fangs, respectively. She was better showcased in the adaptation of Terry McMillan's best-selling novel "Waiting to Exhale" (1995), for which she earned another Image Award. Directed by Forest Whitaker, the film teamed Bassett with Whitney Houston, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon for a wildly popular chick flick whose comic dissection of the male species had universal, cross-cultural appeal.
Bassett had a brief role as White House Chief of Staff in the sci-fi hit "Contact" (1997) and returned to first billing with "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" (1998), another McMillan adaptation that cast her as a 40-ish divorcee who embarks on a relationship with a much younger man (Taye Diggs). Bassett earned another Image Award for her performance and followed up the light romance with the inspirational drama "Music of the Heart" (1999), where she played the no-nonsense inner-city school principal of a novice music teacher (Meryl Streep). Bassett (and co-star Danny Glover) gave powerful but little-seen performances in the apartheid-set independent film "Boesman and Lena" in 2000 and the actress sustained her commitment to quality roles with a starring turn as Rosa Parks in the CBS biopic "The Rosa Parks Story" (2002). Bassett received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress for her portrayal of the civil rights icon, and gave a memorable big screen performance that year in John Sayles' "Sunshine State" (2002), turning in a finely etched characterization of a Florida-born woman who returns to confront her tangled past. In 2003, she appeared in the acclaimed PBS miniseries "Freedom: A History of Us" before making a surprising shift towards comedy, joining Bernie Mac in "Mr. 3000" (2004), where she played a sexy but tough-minded reporter who has a fling with a big-mouthed baseball player trying to make a comeback.
A recurring role as a CIA director on "Alias" (ABC, 2001-06) wooed Bassett back to series television in 2005, and the following year, she was well-cast in the family feature "Akeelah and the Bee" (2006), where she shone as the overprotective mother of a precocious 11-year-old (Keke Palmer) with her sights set on a national spelling bee dominated by rich, privileged children. After a long absence, Bassett returned to the stage to star alongside Laurence Fisburne in August Wilson's "Fences" at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. She starred in the political thriller "Time Bomb" (CBS, 2006) and voiced Mildred, the caretaker of the orphanage that houses a boy genius and inventor, in the animated family film "Meet the Robinsons" (2007). She went on to embody yet another of her infamous strong-willed, independent women in the popular Tyler Perry dramedy, "Meet the Browns" (2008), where she played a struggling single mother who discovers a family she has never known and a way of life far from her Chicago struggles in rural Georgia. The same year, she appeared on the festival circuit in Giancarlo Esposito's directorial debut "Gospel Hill" (2008) and had a supporting role in Rod Lurie's "Nothing But the Truth" (2008), a current events-based political drama about a journalist who exposes a CIA agent in which Bassett played the editor of a prominent Washington newspaper.
Bassett debuted in her first regular series television role in the fall of 2008, joining the cast of the medical mainstay "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) as it rolled out its much-ballyhooed final season. Her successful track record with portraying figures from the pop world led to her 2009 casting as the mother of rapper The Notorious B.I.G. in the biopic, "Notorious." She next appeared on the big screen in the marriage-minded comedy-drama "Jumping the Broom" (2011) and the superhero flop "Green Lantern" (2011). After a supporting role in the romantic action comedy "This Means War" (2012), Bassett played the director of the Secret Service in the thriller "Olympus Has Fallen" (2013) and Coretta Scott King in the TV biopic "Betty and Coretta" (Lifetime 2013) opposite Mary J. Blige as Betty Shabazz. Bassett also co-starred in the holiday musical "Black Nativity" (2013), with a libretto by Langston Hughes. Also in 2013, Bassett joined the cast of Ryan Murphy's "American Horror Story" (FX 2011- ) for its third season, subtitled "Coven," and returned as a new character in each following season of the anthology series. Between the seasons, Bassett co-starred in Gregg Araki's dysfunctional family drama "White Bird in a Blizzard" (2014). After appearing in Spike Lee's satirical "Chi-Raq" (2015), Bassett reappeared in "London Has Fallen" (2016). That same year, it was announced that Bassett would join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, playing Ramonda, the mother of the title character T'Challa in "Black Panther" (2018), which was a massive blockbuster upon its February 2018 release. She reprised the role later the same year in "Avengers: Infinity War" (2018).
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Performed in the Hartford Stage Company production of "The Mystery Plays"
First primetime TV guest spot, "Spenser: For Hire" (ABC)
Made her Broadway debut in Lloyd Richards-directed production of August Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
Made TV-movie debut as a prostitute in "Doubletake" (CBS)
Made her feature film debut as a TV reporter in "F/X"
Acted in Broadway production of August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," directed by Lloyd Richards
Appeared on episodes of "Spenser: For Hire" spin-off "A Man Called Hawk" (ABC)
First film with independent writer-director John Sayles, "City of Hope"
First gained notice as Laurence Fishburne's estranged wife in John Singleton's directorial debut, "Boyz n the Hood"
Portrayed Jackson family matriarch Katherine in ABC miniseries "The Jacksons: An American Dream"
Portrayed Betty Shabazz, the wife of "Malcolm X," in Spike Lee's feature biopic
Delivered breakout role as Tina Turner (opposite Fishburne's Ike) in biopic "What's Love Got To Do With It"
Provided voice of writer Zora Neale Hurston for TBS documentary miniseries "A Century of Women"
Reprised role of Betty Shabazz for uncredited cameo in Mario Van Peebles' "Panther"
Co-starred in female ensemble "Waiting to Exhale," directed by Forest Whitaker and scripted by Terry McMillan
Headlined second adaptation of a McMillan novel "How Stella Got Her Groove Back"
Cast as a school principal in "Music of the Heart"
Appeared in less than stellar sci-fi flick "Supernova"
Co-starred with Danny Glover in "Boesman and Lena"; film adapted from Athol Fugard's play
Cast as Robert De Niro's love interest in "The Score"
Played the owner of a waterfront joint in 1960s Louisiana who begins a relationship with a white male singer in Showtime movie "Ruby's Bucket of Blood"; also served as co-producer
Starred in "Sunshine State" with Edie Falco as a failed actress who goes with her friend home to their northern Florida town
Starred in title role of CBS biopic "The Rosa Parks Story"
Cast in Bob Dylan film "Masked & Anonymous"
Joined cast of "Alias" (ABC) as the new CIA director
Portrayed the mother of a young girl trying to make it to the National Spelling Bee in "Akeelah and the Bee"
Joined cast of NBC's "ER" as Dr. Cate Banfield, an exacting Chief of the ER; husband Courtney Vance played her television husband
Co-starred in "Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns"
Portrayed Voletta Wallace, mother of slain rapper Biggie Smalls, in biopic "Notorious"
Voiced U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama on "The Simpsons" (Fox) episode titled "Stealing First Base"
Played Dr. Amanda Waller, a government agent in film adaptation of DC Comics superhero "Green Lantern"
Co-starred with Samuel L. Jackson on Broadway in "The Mountaintop," a fictionalized depiction of the night before Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination
Landed supporting role in "This Means War," an action comedy starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy
Played the head of the Secret Service in action thriller "Olympus Has Fallen"
Was a recurring character on Ryan Murphy's "American Horror Story"
Nabbed a supporting role in the crime-thriller "Survivor"
Co-starred in Spike Lee's "Chi-Raq"
Nabbed a supporting role on the mini-series "Close to the Enemy"
Guest-starred on Aziz Ansari's "Master of None"
Played Ramonda in Marvel's "Black Panther"
Returned to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in "Avengers: Infinity War"
Made her first foray into the "Mission: Impossible" franchise with "Mission: Impossible - Fallout"