Warning: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever spoilers ahead.
In the more than 35 years Angela Bassett He’s been making movies, he’s never missed a beat. After starting with small roles in movies (F/X, kindergarten police) and TV shows (the cosby show, Thirties), the New York native’s star exploded in the early ’90s thanks to simmering roles in a trifecta of seminal films: kids in the neighborhood, malcolm x and What does love have to do with it?.
Although Bassett’s roles have run the gamut, from housewife to pop star, there has been a common thread running through them all: They are tough-as-nails women, fiercely independent, and clear spiritual ramifications of the 64-year-old herself.
That’s especially true of Queen Ramonda, the Wakandan royal and mother of Chadwick Boseman’s eponymous superhero first introduced in the 2018 Marvel sensation. Black Panther.
Bassett returned for 2022’s deeply emotional sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever — a film that served as a tribute to both Boseman (who died of colon cancer in 2020) and his character T’Challa, who dies off-screen in the opening minutes of the story. Ultimately, he too could test Bassett’s swan song in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Ramonda is killed in a flood brought on by the invading Talokanil, though death is never certain at MCU.
Regardless, Bassett turned in a powerful performance as the grieving Queen Mother of Wakanda, and was rewarded with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination (her second nomination and first since 1993). What does love have to do with it?). bassett made history as the first Marvel artist to be nominated in the acting categories, and is considered a favorite – head to head with the first time Everything everywhere at once nominee Jamie Lee Curtis — to win.
During a Role recovery interview with Yahoo Entertainment (see above), Bassett shared some firsthand emotions with us from the sets of her most beloved projects, updated here with some recent thoughts from her on Black Panther and Soul.
Four years after a small role as “TV Reporter” in the 1986 action favorite F/X, Bassett was still paying her dues when she appeared in a scene as “Stewardess” in this Arnold Schwarzenegger family hit. “I was glad to have a job. I think they paid me like $750,” she said. “So $750 and Arnold Schwarzenegger? I was an ace.”
Bassett’s breakthrough came in this groundbreaking drama from the first-time director single john. And having done mostly episodic television work, she knew full well that it was a break. “He was very young and bright-eyed,” Bassett said of Singleton, who would become the youngest filmmaker to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar and died in 2019.
The actress held her own against Oscar nominee Denzel Washington as Malcolm X’s wife, Dr. Betty Shabazz, in the acclaimed Spike Lee biopic. She recalled how much the film meant to her and her co-stars: “We were all very attached to making it. We were very respectful at the time,” she said. “We carry the spirit of that time and of that movement with us.”
Bassett earned much love and an Oscar nomination for her ferocious portrayal of singer Tina Turner in the big-screen biopic. “She was so demanding, emotionally, each day,” Bassett said. “[There was no] easy day or easy week or easy setting. Each day, each scene, emotionally exhausting”.
After playing an iconic singer in What does love have to do with it?, Bassett co-starred with another (Whitney Houston) in Forest Whitaker’s adaptation of Terry McMillan’s best-selling book. She remembered improvising her way through the famous car burning scene from the dramaand cited his tough-talking mother as the inspiration for his character.
Bassett had a role in choosing the young actor her character, an older woman on a Caribbean vacation, would seduce in this popular romantic comedy also based on a McMillan book. “There was something about Taye [Diggs]she said. “He was just the complete package. And he was very happy to have this handsome co-star.”
Bassett played the jazz star who gives Jamie Foxx’s humble music teacher his big break in the Oscar-winning animated comedy. Soul, which marked Pixar’s first predominantly black voice cast and came just months after the racial reckoning that followed the police killing of George Floyd. “We are much more alike than different, but there are negative voices that insist on the differences as if there is something wrong with it.” Bassett told Yahoo Entertainment in an interview before the film’s premiere. “And there isn’t… So I think it’s a beautiful project.”
Bassett paid an in-depth tribute to her late co-star and on-screen son Boseman during a 2020 interview with Yahoo Entertainment. He “he gave a full measure of himself, his abilities, his talent, his heart, his spirit, his limitless and deep soul to that project.” She told us. “He was truly one of the most special individuals, creations, that I have ever met in my life.”
This interview was originally published on March 1, 2016 and has been updated.