You could say Angela Bassett is in the top five all time when it comes to African American actress. This week the legendary actress got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and her new movie Tyler Perry’s Meet The Browns came to theaters nationwide. At the age of 49 she seems grounded, happy, fortunate, and blessed to be where she is. Whether it is social issues or her craft she is ready to give you an answer and love DOES have everything to do with it.
Listen to the Angela Bassett CYInterview:
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Chris Yandek: Congrats on your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame yesterday. How does it feel a day later?
Angela Bassett: “Thank you so much. It was amazing- I was excited, like I dreamt it. I was so nervous about getting it, what people would say, who would show up. If it was rain and there was nothing to be nervous about. It was a glorious day.”
CY: Why do you feel you might have been nervous though?
AB: “Well, when I came to Hollywood I walked down Hollywood Boulevard along the streets and saw all the names of some really amazing individuals, people who entertained me for years and well respected. You thought oh gosh. I had dreams of coming to this town and working and not just doing any kind of work, but doing work that would resonate with people, that would touch people. That would mean something and hoping that I could grow as an actor and just keep it going and it worked out. It’s worked out. You always remember where you were in the beginning. You had idealistic and hoping people would accept you and allow you to do what it is that you love doing and not initially looking for the accolades, just looking for the opportunity. Then when the accolades come it just makes it that much sweeter.”
CY: You have two big events in the span of a few days in the movie and the star. Was it just a coincidence?
AB: “Well, they tried to plan it around the opening of the movie so it makes it that much nicer and adds to the excitement. They feed off each other. The movie adds to the excitement of the star happening and the star shines its light on the movie so go see it tomorrow.”
CY: Are you more open minded to do something today like Meet The Browns because you’ve been around for a while and are comfortable with who you are as a performer and with yourself?
AB: “It still all begins on the page. If I think that I can bring something to the table then yeah I am more inclined to say yes. If I don’t think that I can or I think I can’t grow from the experience or I think it will be good cause you can never fully know, but that I do know I’ll be able to give my all to it and connect with it then I am more inclined to say yeah.”
CY: Look at you it’s like you’ve been around for decades and its Angela Bassett. If she doesn’t know fully how does she know? When does the moment come to you that says yes I am going to do this role?
AB: “Well, I know one indicator is that if I don’t fall asleep reading the script. (Laughs) There is some that I read and I declare by page three I am out of it or some scripts are just painful to read. Usually about 115 pages and it feels like 315. I can’t get through it. That sort of indicates to me that the story is not holding or it’s not pulling me along. It’s not keeping my interests. I don’t believe it. It’s not truthful. It’s contrived. : But when I read a script and laugh out loud or I look up and I am at the end or I am crying just like it touches me in that way then that is pretty much a go for me.”
CY: You star across from former NBA star Rick Fox who is now trying to make his way in acting. What are your thoughts on his acting abilities?
AB: “I was so impressed by him. One of the first scenes we had to do was a hospital with my son is on the brink of life and death. They shoot you together and they shoot what they call your close up. Some actors are not there for you during your close up. They’ve done their work and they move on. They are sort of cab driving, but he stayed connected with me for that scene and the whole process. He didn’t mind working hard. He didn’t mind working long hours. He was always prepared. He could just sit around and talk about our character’s history. Done a whole historical thing on his character to make sense of it and I was just really impressed. I was impressed by his work ethic and I was impressed by his ability. He really wants to do good work. He doesn’t take the easy road.”
CY: When I look at What’s Love Got To do With It and being someone who has interviewed people in many different realms of sports, entertainment, and news makers, your body was in such amazing shape for the movie compared to some of these other people in the athletic world I’ve interviewed. Looking at you today you have aged so gracefully and I feel looking way younger than what your age is. What is your secret? Is it just working out as much as you did then or is it something else?
AB: “It’s just living right. You can’t fight it. The one thing you do from the day you’re born is age. You can’t. Well, I try not to fight it. Whatever we came here with was good enough. Just trying to take care of it whether it’s eating right, living right, thinking good right thoughts, all of that together.”
CY: Did you ever consider plastic surgery?
AB: “I do but I am too scared. I am too much of a chicken to go through with something like that, maybe in time. I don’t know. I am too scared to let somebody cut on my face like that.”
CY: Can you believe it has been fifteen years since the movie and the Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination for you?
AB: ”No. Sometimes I have to take my fingers out and go wow and count them up, but still a favorite movie for a lot of people. They still remember it vividly. I love that.”
CY: Yeah that movie came out when I was a child.
AB: “You were a mere lad.”
CY: Yeah. I saw it a few years ago and it was like damn that’s such a good movie.
AB: “It still holds true. I haven’t seen it in a long time, but you can catch anything on cable. There are still things that I didn’t see after the first viewings, which just makes it richer. Just makes it so layered.”
CY: Looking at another amazing project you were in was the Rosa Parks TV movie, what’s interesting is you were able to draw not only from your Masters in Fine Arts at Yale but also your Bachelors Degree in African American Studies. Did that help you prepare for the role?
AB: “Oh yeah. It helps for the historical perspective and to do the research. I certainly have a great deal of respect and regard for her. What she went through. What she sacrificed. It helped. I know it meant something.”
CY: So being somebody who has a degree in African American studies from Yale how would you contextualize the candidacy of Barack Obama?
AB: “Just an amazing period in history right now. I just think he is the man for the job. He’s honest. He’s straight. As much as we can know about a person and what drives them. He appears to be a straight shooter. Having been born of the people he’s been born from to whether he’s black, white, African to will it be an inclusive force in this country. We know what the history of America is like in terms of race relations and with him it’s just the opportunity for us to find maybe pull that scab off and let air and light get to it. May there be a change and real healing that goes on.”
CY: I just wish Angela we could judge people based on their character and not what they look like and to me its to me when we need to get past these things.
AB: “Well a lot of us can and a lot of us do. It’s no perfect world. As long as those who can rise above it rise. We can bring it up and our whole country. Look at it as time I suppose.”
CY: Does it bother you how some of these black churches have been covered recently?
AB: “Well, because of the history in America it has often been the black church where African Americans could find Aban and Gilead, disseminate some information, find some pride, find some fight. It’s hard living in America. It has been. A lot of it can be subtle when you are looked at or where you ignored, when you’re not looked at, when you’re seen. You need to know that you matter and that you make a difference. It’s the black church that says vote. Get out and vote. Not telling you who but that you should, but people died and bled for the opportunity. It’s hard being someone who opens the door and paves the way.
This isn’t a country. This is our adopted country. We have to take a stand for it. It’s like a family. Every family member of your family is not perfect. There is some you wish that would sit down somewhere and be quiet. There is some you wish that would behave better. There is some that are brilliant. You got the PHD’s and got the ones that seem did you go to kindergarten? Did you go to preschool? We’re a family here in this country. Just about living better.”
CY: Finally, tell me why should we go see the movie?
AB: “The movie is hysterical. It’s hysterical, it’s funny, it’s warm, it’s touching, it’s gonna surprise. It’s subtle. It’s broad. I guarantee you’ll have a good time.”
Meet The Browns is playing in theaters nationwide.
You can find more information at http://www.meetthebrownsfilm.com
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