Thursday, August 17, 2017

ANGELA BASSETT

BY KIMBERLY BAILEY-TUREAUD

ON TOP TO STAY

Playing by her own rules, Angela Bassett has reached the heights in Hollywood

Angela Bassett stars in the new season of the hit series "American Horror Story."

Already a certified Hollywood icon for her portrayal of Tina Turner in the classic biopic “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” Academy Award nominated actress Angela Bassett has risen steadily to stratospheric stardom.

Having captivated global audiences with roles in films such as “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” “Malcolm X,” “The Rosa Parks Story” and “Waiting To Exhale,” Bassett will now join the cast of the popular FX series “American Horror Story,” beginning with its third season premiere Oct. 9.

“This season on ‘American Horror Story,’ I am excited that it deals with witches and it’s not about a lot of gore,” Bassett told Las Vegas Black Image in an exclusive interview. “It is not a gorefest just for the sake of it. It is heavy on estrogen — a female lounge series. So, it gives actresses a wonderful opportunity to flex their acting chops. Some of the great actresses involved with the series include Jessica Lange, Lily Rabe, Gabourey Sidibe and Kathy Bates, just to mention a few. It is a very inclusive cast of both young and mature actresses. The series is set in New Orleans, which is culturally rich in terms of American history, African-American culture, Creole, French and Spanish. It is like a rich environmental cultural gumbo. I play a character that is loosely based on the historical figure Marie Laveau, who was a renowned practitioner of voodoo.”

Hollywood has a complicated relationship with African-American actresses, an undeniable reality that was the topic of a recent roundtable discussion telecast on the OWN Network. “I don’t know if I have a particular secret that keeps me a working actress,” says Bassett. “I just try to stay positive and grateful, and when opportunities present themselves, I always arrive prepared. I show up, and I put in the work that is needed.”

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, her portrayal of Coretta Scott King in the miniseries “Betty and Coretta” takes on a special resonance for Bassett. “Coretta Scott King was very much an advocate for women, for students and for the gay and lesbian community,” she says. “While her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — because of his position — had to carefully consider what causes to address, according to timing, she could speak on important issues and not wait for a special time. For her, the time was now. She was very much a forward thinker, and even though she and her husband knew about the potential danger of their positions in life, she embraced it. She and Dr. King believed that they were born for the fight, given that particular calling in life, and that it was what they were supposed to do. She embraced that it would be difficult, and we all know that a high cost was paid. But Ms. Coretta was a woman for the job, and maintained her sanity all her days.”

Bassett has played many historic figures in film and television, including Betty Shabazz in “Malcolm X,” Rosa Parks in “The Rosa Parks Story” and Katherine Jackson in “The Jacksons: An American Dream.” “All of these women were and are traditional mothers and wives. They are ladies — very ladylike,” Bassett says. “These women are classic ladies, who were very gentle and presented themselves well. They were and are well-spoken, revered and respected by their families, community and anyone who had the opportunity and blessing to know them. But in addition to all their gentility and vulnerability, they were extremely committed, passionate and strong. That old saying, ‘Don’t take their kindness for weakness’ — there was nothing weak about them. Be fooled if you want to, but they were strong women and matriarchs of their families.”

Angela Bassett stars in the new season of the hit series "American Horror Story."

The importance of the black family is a central value for Bassett — who is married to actor Courtney B. Vance, with whom she has 7-year-old twins, a girl and a boy. “The black family is the building block of our community,” she says. “As a family unit, you must support each other because this is where you get your strength from. It is important to keep your family strong, powerful and successful. It is constant daily work and commitment. You can’t take your family for granted.”

In raising to her own children, Bassett has prioritized the things she holds most dear.

“I always want my children to be reminded to work at the top of their abilities,” she says. “Recently, I told my son to go get a book to read since it wasn’t quite time to go to school. I told him, ‘Go read something, or you can practice the piano a little before we leave the house for school.’ You know he wanted to just turn on the television to watch TV. I always remind my children, ‘What is your responsibility? Go handle your responsibility.’

“When they get up from eating at the table, I want them to pick up their dish and wash it off in the kitchen sink. When they get up in the morning, I want them to wash their faces and brush their teeth and make their beds. Then they can come to the breakfast table to eat and then go to school. My son comes back to me with a book that has five words on a page to read. I told him it was time for us to pass that book on and give it to some baby (laughs). I explained to him that is not a book that he can read at his capability. I told him that he reads very well, and will need a book that is more at his reading level. I reminded him of his Godgiven talent that will take him to the top one day. But I asked him, ‘Once you get to the top, will you put in the time, hard work and sacrifice to stay at the top?’ I explained to my son that if he didn’t do what is required to stay at the top he would fall to the middle and someone else who doesn’t have as much talent as he does will rise to the top. I told him he doesn’t want to look back and say, ‘That could have been me at the top.’ And the person at the top will say, ‘Yeah, but you didn’t work as hard as I did.’”

Positive energy also is among Bassett’s chief values, which she extends to a fan base that marvels at her healthy physique and ability to exude supreme self-confidence.

“Confidence comes from being grateful and thankful daily,” says Bassett. “Just thankful, thankful, thankful. You have to talk well to yourself, and stay both mentally and physically active. I go to the gym every day, and work out for 45-50 minutes. I eat very clean food such as grilled chicken and not a lot of gravy or fried foods. Also, I limit sugar in my diet because it ages you, and alcohol puts you into a position to make unwise eating choices such as chips, dips and other stuff. It’s about having control. I also make sure to get my annual mammogram. I pick a time like the first of the year in January, around my birthday, to do all the things I need to do for internal good health. I get a full physical exam, gynecological exam and mammogram — all at the same time of the year.”

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