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Angela Bassett


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Early life

Bassett was born in New York City and relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida as a child. She and her sister D'nette were raised by their social worker/civil servant mother, Betty.[1][2] As a young child, her interest in entertainment developed, as she and her sister would often put on shows, reading poems or perform popular music for their family. At Boca Ciega High School, Bassett was a member of the debate team, student government, drama club, choir, and was a cheerleader.

Bassett attended Yale University and received her B.A. in African-American studies in 1980. In 1983, she earned a Master of Fine Arts Degree from the Yale School of Drama. At Yale, Bassett met her future husband Courtney B. Vance, a 1986 graduate of the drama school. After graduation, Bassett worked as a receptionist for a beauty salon and as a photo researcher.

She soon looked for acting work in the New York theater. One of her first New York performances came in 1985 when she appeared in J.E. Franklin's Black Girl at Second Stage Theatre. She appeared in two August Wilson plays at the Yale Repertory Theatre under the direction of her long-time instructor Lloyd Richards. The Wilson plays featuring Bassett were Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984) and Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1986).

[edit] Television and film career

In 1985 she made her first appearance on television as a prostitute in the TV movie Doubletake (1985). However, she made her official film debut as a news reporter in F/X (1986). Bassett has said "I really believe that what I do as an actress is my God-given talent. This is my calling...not my career." Bassett moved to Los Angeles and gained recognition in the films Boyz n the Hood (1991) and Malcolm X (1992). For her portrayal of Betty Shabazz she earned an Image Award.

Later that year, she won the role of Tina Turner in the feature film What's Love Got to Do with It. Bassett went through a lengthy and intense audition and broke her finger during a scene, but was given the role over actors Robin Givens and Halle Berry. To gain Turner's well-sculpted figure, Bassett went on a no-sugar diet and weight-trained four hours a day, six days a week. She had to memorize numerous song lyrics and full dance routines to portray the singing legend during her performances.

The film was released in 1993. Bassett earned a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Turner. She was the first African-American to win the Best Actress Golden Globe for a Musical or Comedy.

Angela Bassett starred in three movies in 1995 that were released with varied reactions from critics; Vampire in Brooklyn, Strange Days, and Waiting to Exhale (where she worked with author Terry McMillan). In Strange Days, Bassett plays Lornette "Mace" Mason who is regarded as the savior/heroine in the film often saving the male main character in gutsy, raw fist fights or fiery car chases. Bassett's Mace is also one of the few black female science-fiction characters in film. Bernadine, Bassett's character in Waiting to Exhale, was betrayed by her husband and in revenge she set fire to his entire wardrobe and vehicle, then she sold what was left for one dollar. Bassett's performance in the film was so popular that her scenes are often referenced in novels, and there are still social groups that gather to watch Waiting to Exhale.

It can be argued that Angela Bassett's first truly leading role, where the film solely depended on her star power and charisma, was in 1998's How Stella Got Her Groove Back where she once again collaborated with McMillan. She played Stella in the film about a 40-year-old professional woman falling in love with a 20-year-old Jamaican man. Bassett appears in nearly every scene in the film, showing off her toned figure in jogging suits or two-piece swimsuits, but more notably displaying her leading-lady status. She unsurprisingly received rave reviews.

Bassett made headlines when she stated that she was offered the lead role in Monster's Ball (for which Halle Berry won a history-making Oscar) but did not accept it because of its representation of African-American females. Bassett compared the character to a prostitute. The producers of "Monster's Ball" have consistently maintained that she was never offered the role.

Bassett has not had to audition for a film since 1993's What's Love Got to Do with It although Bassett says that she would not mind auditioning for a director to prove that she can do a role they are not used to seeing her perform.

On April 28th 2008 it was announced that Bassett will join the regular cast of medical drama series ER for it's final season playing a nurse who is returning to Chicago after working in Indonesia following the Boxing day tsunami. She will appear from the second episode.

[edit] Personal life

Bassett is a private person, often choosing not to discuss her personal life with the public. She is also a religious person who is of the Christian faith and attends LA's West Angeles Church of God in Christ along with fellow actor Denzel Washington. Bassett told the Los Angeles Times: "Loving God is like my being black. I just am. [No one says] 'You know what? I'm gonna be blacker today!' It's my culture. It's not something I put on or take off or show more. You just communicate that in the way you live your life."

She has been married to actor Courtney B. Vance since 1997. In the summer of 2005, they starred together in a production of the play His Girl Friday at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The couple's first children, son Slater Josiah and daughter Bronwyn Golden, were born on January 27, 2006. The children were carried by a surrogate mother after Bassett had a seven year battle with infertility.

Bassett is an avid supporter of programs for the Arts, especially for youth. She annually attends events for children with diabetes and in foster homes, and she is an active Ambassador of UNICEF. Bassett is a big supporter of the Royal Theater Boys & Girls Club in her hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida. The Club is one of the first all performing arts Boys & Girls Clubs in the country.

She is currently a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for the United States.


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