An Inside Look At Angela Bassett's Life And Career

Across several generations, Angela Bassett continues to prove that she is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood. Superhero fans were excited to hear that Bassett was reprising her role as Ramonda in the 2022 sequel "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." At the same time, she played Athena on the Ryan Murphy procedural drama, "9-1-1." This wasn't the first time Bassett worked with Murphy, as she appeared in "American Horror Story" for multiple seasons and also made her directorial debut filming an episode, per Vanity Fair.

Throughout her career, Bassett interacted with iconic musicians like portraying Tina Turner and working with Whitney Houston in the 1995 romance film "Waiting to Exhale." Bassett remembered the late singer "was delightful and beautiful, always dancing and singing," per InStyle. Bassett inspired fans too, like after her lead role in "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" from 1998. "I can't tell you how many times ladies have come up to me and said, 'I got my groove back.' They're embracing their sensuality and youth," Bassett told W Magazine.

During Bassett's long career in show business, she has experienced nearly every emotion, whether it was through exhilarating storytelling on screen or real life family tragedies. Even against multiple obstacles, Bassett follows some simple phrases to keep moving forward like "Don't be timid" and "Don't be hard on yourself. Be bold," she told Parade while adding that she plans to keep acting. This is an inside look at Angela Bassett's life and career.

The early days for Angela Bassett

Young Angela Bassett grew up in Florida. "I spent many a day at Walt Disney World," she told Parade. Later in her career, she even had the chance to narrate for Disney with "The Imagineering Story – The Happiest Place on Earth." Yet in her own experience, her upbringing in Florida wasn't always the happiest place on earth. Bassett explained she was "a little girl who came up through the projects in St Petersburg, Florida, with no one to point her in the right direction, but a mother who was a little on the dramatic side herself," per The Guardian.

One of the hardest parts of her childhood was dealing with the aftermath of her parents' divorce, which left Bassett living with her aunt and uncle. "They took me as a 10-month-old baby and raised me," she said of her relatives to People. Bassett also explained that her aunt never tried to replace her mom and would often remind the young girl that her mother was still out there. Then, "I remember getting a call one day and was like, 'Hi Angela. This is your mommy. I'm coming to get you.' And I remember hanging up, going, I don't have a mommy. And next thing I know and she's at the door. And I'm picked up and swiftly off to St. Petersburg, Florida." While Bassett admitted it was difficult at first restarting a relationship, she ended up learning a lot from her mother.

Angela Bassett talks about her college experience

Angela Bassett initially wanted to study theater at Yale, but her aunt considered that major a waste of time and convinced the young woman to focus on a perhaps more stable career choice. She earned her undergraduate degree in 1980 with a major in African American studies. Afterward, Bassett focused on her passions and received her Master's degree from Yale's School of Drama in 1983. "I was there for seven years, so I got to know the place," Bassett told InStyle. She recalled being surrounded by some of the most intelligent and talented classmates, which at times was intimidating. "I would literally stand in front of my mirror and give myself a good talking-to. I'd say, 'How long do you want to be overwhelmed? ... have your pity party, but then after that, wash your face, comb your hair, and go do what you need to do,'" she remembered thinking.

Over 30 years later in 2018, the ivy league school awarded Bassett with an honorary doctorate degree in fine arts. A few years after this recognition, Yale undergraduate students voted to give Bassett the Yale Undergraduate Lifetime Achievement Award. She became the first Black recipient of the honor, which had previously been awarded to famous Yale alumni like George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and fellow actor Jodie Foster.

Bassett walked away from Yale with more than just knowledge. It's where she met her future husband Courtney B. Vance, Bassett told People.

Angela Bassett's secrets to growing older

Showing no signs of slowing down in entertainment, Angela Bassett turned 64 years old in 2022, Hollywood Life recapped. "In Hollywood, there was a time when people believed that once an actress turns 40, it's over," she told W Magazine. "But no, those things that make us who we are — our sensuality, sexuality, compassion, and intelligence — that doesn't come to an end. It deepens and ripens, you know? It's all in the attitude," she added. While a healthy attitude is certainly key to her success and attitude, she is also dedicated to her diet and workout routines that keep performing at the highest levels. "I'm regimented and rigorous about what I'm eating. Diet is 85% of the whole thing for me," she explained to Net-a-Porter.

Although Bassett admitted she is not the biggest fan of exercise, "I think it's so important to give your body that movement," she told Parade. Bassett said body weight exercises like squats and pushups are some of her favorites. According to Bassett, she believes the key is to find the right balance of diet, exercise, and regular check-ins with doctors but to not be over-the-top about any one aspect. The actor believes, "if we could just get it 80 percent right most of the time, we'll be in good shape." Also, don't expect her to let up even in her 60s and beyond because she said of people in advanced ages, "we're not going down without a fight!"

Here's what Angela Bassett thinks about Black Panther

"Black Panther" was a smash hit with audiences, earning over $700 million in the U.S. alone and almost $650 million internationally after opening, CNBC reported. As of 2022, the superhero film was the 14th highest grossing movie worldwide ever, per Box Office Mojo. Talking to Vanity Fair about the tremendous reception of the film, one of its stars, Angela Bassett said, "This has to open up success. I hope that this is a clarion call, that it's something that continues." She added, "It's an iconic film. It's such positive images."

For the 2022 sequel "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," Bassett told E! News about the cast was excited to return to work on the film. Of course, no one could forget the late Chadwick Boseman who would be missing as the titular character. "We still have a little, you know, we feel some kind of way in our heart, of course. So every day is just a testament and a love fest for our dear [Chadwick Boseman]," Bassett said about the film.

While Bassett wouldn't give up any plot secrets about the sequel, she said there was a stunt incident on set involving Letitia Wright who plays Shuri. Fortunately, Wright recovered after the accident. "Anything like that will shake you up, but she's just a little, slight, little petite thing. But she is fine and ready to go," Bassett revealed.

The fashion and style of Angela Bassett

For as long as she's been in the public eye, Angela Bassett has shown off incredible looks, often on the red carpet. Part of her sense of fashion is the strong connection she has with stylist Jennifer Austin. "The thing I love most about dressing Angela is her total and complete trust in me and my vision. She has let me change her image and style, push her out of her comfort zone, and has never questioned me or my choices," Austin told Us Weekly. She also said she opened up Bassett's taste in colors "because when I first started styling her she had a closet full of black clothes!" Some of Bassett's favorite clothing designers are brands like Victoria Beckham, Givenchy, and Jimmy Choo.

Beyond fashion, Bassett also has a seemingly ageless appearance. "My mother imprinted on me early in life to take care of my skin," and began taking her to a dermatologist to stay proactive against acne and learn about skin care, Bassett told the Los Angeles Times. In 2016, the actor collaborated with Dr. Barbara Sturm to launch a luxury skin care line specifically for people with dark skin color. According to Bassett, her secret is to keep her skin clean with occasional peels. "I also don't wear makeup if I'm not working. And I see my aestheticians when I can, if it's once a month or every two months, just to keep the pores clean," she told Parade.

Angela Bassett has some spooky experiences

Angela Bassett made her debut in the "American Horror Story" anthology in 2013 as Marie Laveau in the third season "Coven." Her role as a voodoo queen meant that she needed to handle snakes, and while this must have been scary to many viewers, Bassett said it was easy at first. "I have never been around snakes before and I thought they were pretty quiet creatures," she recalled to People. That is, "until you actually held one and he's slithering up your body and into your ear and you're like that hiss is very loud ... and disconcerting."

Basset returned for the next season, "Freak Show," this time as a character who had a third breast. Bassett revealed the prosthetic piece was made of silicon and she "was just glad it wasn't on my face. I'm claustrophobic. It's amazing. The initial appliance was extremely heavy," she told Collider.

Even after she left the show and began working on one of Ryan Murphy's other products, "9-1-1," Bassett was still a huge fan of the horror series. "I have [Season 8] on my DVR, but I haven't seen any of it just yet," Bassett explained to The Hollywood Reporter. The actor also confessed she was envious that some of her co-stars were returning to "American Horror Story" without her. "I mean, come on. Where's Marie Laveau? I'm even a little bit in my feelings that Marie didn't come back," she said about her Season 3 character.

What Angela Bassett thinks about Chadwick Boseman

In the 2018 superhero film "Black Panther," Angela Bassett often shared screen time with the titular character, played by Chadwick Boseman, since she portrayed his mom. While it was their first time working together, the two actually met years earlier in 2000. At the time, Bassett was visiting Howard University because the school was awarding her with an honorary doctorate degree and she was giving the commencement speech that year. The university assigned young Boseman, who was a student at Howard, to escort Bassett around campus.

"It's sort of full circle," he said on "Live with Kelly and Ryan" about working with Bassett on "Black Panther." In another full circle moment, Howard University asked Boseman to return and give the 2018 commencement speech for its graduating class.

In fact, Boseman held onto the story during the entirety of production. "We sat next to each other every morning in the makeup chair. You know, as we're getting our lines and our accents and our work together for the day," Bassett recounted on "The Kelly Clarkson Show." It was only at the opening premiere party at "Black Panther" when Boseman told Bassett about their first meeting. She was shocked but said about Boseman, "he's just amazing, and he reminded me of that." After Boseman's heartbreaking death in 2020, Bassett called him "truly one of the most incredible individuals that I have ever had the opportunity to meet and work with," per People.

Here's how Angela Bassett became a thespian

From a young age, Angela Bassett was passionate about acting. In high school, she was part of a class trip to Washington D.C., which included watching a performance of the play "Of Mice and Men." Actor, and the voice of Darth Vader, James Earl Jones was in the production, and Bassett vividly remembers, "I was the last person in the theater and I was glued to my seat and I was just weeping," she told People. She then went on to study theater at Yale University. "I mean, theater is my first love. I love the stage," she told InStyle. Bassett recalled a time when playwright John Guare saw her perform in his play "His Girl Friday" and praised her, saying, "'Angela, you're a theater animal. You command the stage and the audience.' It was the highest compliment."

Part of the reason Bassett loves to act is portraying emotions and relations that she sees in real life. "I'm so interested in human dynamics, how people get along, why they do what they do, what makes them tick, what makes them glow, what makes them sad," the actor told Parade. "Those are the things I find really interesting," she added. To prepare for roles and accurately portray these emotions, Bassett will sometimes sit with men and women that her roles are based on. For example, she met with female law enforcement officers to help with her character Athena on "9-1-1."

Angela Bassett faced difficulties in acting

Even though Angela Bassett is a gifted actor that can portray a wide range of characters, as seen through her impressive resume, via IMDb, the actor faced many setbacks during her career. For example, she went through a five-year period of difficult auditions with few big roles to show for it. "I thought that if I were to get [the part], it would be one of those movies that would cement my face with my name," she told People. "I was always that actor that was struggling going to auditions or doing guest spots on weekend television shows," Bassett recalled. Fortunately, she kept focused and above all, she strived to be memorable.

Once she started getting more regular offers, Bassett chose to focus on parts she wanted, even if that meant missing out on paychecks. "I've had to protect myself from being led by the finance of it. I can't start with, 'Well, how much are they paying?' I can't be led by that," Bassett told Net-a-Porter. She has also passed on some major roles, for example, the lead role in the film "Monster's Ball." The part went to Halle Berry, who went on to win the best actress award at the Oscars for her performance in the film. Even with Berry's success, Bassett accepted the outcome from her missed role. "You cannot dance to every record. You must sit some out," she said.

Angela Bassett reveals what it was like to be Tina Turner

While "What's Love Got to Do with It" depicted a dramatized version of singer Tina Turner, lead actor Angela Bassett revealed that Turner actually helped with hair and makeup during production of the 1993 film. Towards the end of the shoot, Turner arrived on set, and with no assistance needed, "she did my makeup and hair in a quarter of the time that their stylists did — and it was just as fabulous," Bassett explained in an interview with InStyle. As enjoyable as the hair and makeup process sounded, Bassett explained that the role still stands out in her career as the most challenging. "Definitely nothing has been as difficult as Tina Turner. Nothing as difficult physically, emotionally, spiritually, vocally. Nothing, absolutely nothing," Bassett explained to People. "I learned how strong internally I could be. I ached from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. I lost my voice," she recounted to InStyle.

Bassett earned impressive accolades for her performance, including an Academy Award nomination for best actress. At the 1994 Golden Globes, Bassett won for best actress in a motion picture musical or comedy and had tears of joy during her acceptance speech. Many years later, a fan said they felt Bassett was robbed from receiving an Oscar for her performance in a segment on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen." Bassett playfully pounded her fist on a chair and said, "Yeah, me too."

The special connection between Angela Bassett and her mom, Betty Jane Bassett

Angela Bassett excels at playing confident and wise mothers on screen, like her role as Ramonda, the Queen mother of Wakanda, in the 2018 film "Black Panther." The actor saw many of these characteristics in her own mother, Betty Jane Bassett. "She was very strong willed, determined, simple woman," Angela told Good Morning America about her mom. "She had high expectations for her two daughters," the actor added. As a result, Bassett's mom instilled a sense of independence and a desire for education into her offspring. Betty Jane did this all as a single mother. This stress became more pronounced as Betty Jane grew older and Angela recalled the "challenges of being a mature age or the stress of living alone that were overwhelming" for her mom, per Healthline.

Sadly, Betty Jane died from heart disease in 2014, which Angela later learned was connected with her mom's type 2 diabetes. Towards the end of her life, Angela remembered, "I was really concerned, of course, for taking care of my mother's other needs that I could see and ascertain naturally, or what she wanted or complained about." Five years after Betty Jane's death, Angela urged her Instagram followers to manage their health and to be aware about heart disease.

The relationship between Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance

Angela Bassett first met Courtney B. Vance while both were students at Yale, but it wasn't exactly love at first sight. At the time, he was in a relationship, but the two stayed friends until they romantically connected about 14 years later while both living in Los Angeles. "I was single, he was single. And I had such an appreciation for him over those years — of his consistency, how he treated other people, of what a supporter he is, what a connector of people and ideas he is, how passionate he is," Bassett told People. Since both Bassett and Courtney had been in serious relationships in the past, the couple wanted to try things a little differently together. This included abstaining from sex until marriage because, "I wanted to really see him for who he was, and I wanted him to see who I was," she told NPR.

The couple tied the knot in 1997 during an emotional ceremony, Vance remembered. The happy couple celebrated 23 years of marriage together in 2020, and Bassett credited the long-lasting connection with supporting each other while also allowing room for individual goals and dreams. "I think the important thing is that you gotta marry the right person. Make sure you're both looking in the same direction, basically," Bassett told People about the secret to a successful partnership.

Life as a mom for Angela Bassett

In 2006, Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance welcomed their first children together, fraternal twins Bronwyn and Slater. The road to becoming parents wasn't easy, as Bassett and Vance tried unsuccessfully in having children for seven years. This included several tries at fertility through treatments like IVF but with no success. "I was devastated when it didn't happen. I had to remain hopeful and resilient and, 'Okay, let's do it again,'" Bassett explained on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," via People. Thanks to a friend who suggested surrogacy, Bassett and Vance explored that option with great success. The proud parents then brought the adorable twins out towards the end of their interview with Oprah.

Eventually, these cute babies turned into teens, along with all the excitement of young love. "My daughter asked if she could have a boyfriend, so she's starting to date, but it's still sweet," Bassett told Us Weekly about Bronwyn when she was 15 years old. "Sometimes I'll have the nerve to ask, 'Have, you kissed?' And she says, 'No.' And I'm like, 'Oh, OK, well that wasn't my journey,'" the actor revealed. Meanwhile, she said Slater appears more interested in making music and rapping than dating.

Bassett also explained that her kids don't always watch her films, including her iconic performance as Tina Turner. "I tell them, you don't know what I got up my sleeve," she told People about her twins.

The charitable side of Angela Bassett

Angela Bassett wanted to help others learn from her experience after her mother's death from heart disease. Her mom also lived with type 2 diabetes, and the family learned that these two diseases could be closely linked. In a combined campaign between the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association called "Know Diabetes by Heart," Bassett became a spokeswoman and used her influence to bring awareness to this specific health issue. "I wish my family had recognized the link earlier and that's why I want everyone living with type 2 diabetes to know about the connection to heart disease and stroke and know that they can do something about it," Bassett said in a statement, via NewsOne.

During an event for the American Heart Association, Bassett talked about why she is so passionate about helping others. "Losing my mother, the person who encouraged me to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming an actress, was a wake-up call to start talking about the risk of heart disease with my family members who also have type 2 diabetes, like my uncle Ralph," Bassett said. To further raise awareness for people with type 2 diabetes, Bassett became the spokeswoman for a campaign called "For Your SweetHeart." In a video for the campaign, she sat next to her uncle Ralph and urged people to talk with their health care providers, for themselves or loved ones, about the risk of heart disease for those with type 2 diabetes.

Here's how much Angela Bassett is really worth

Rolling into the fifth season of the Fox drama "9-1-1," the continued success of the series meant the actors received impressive pay increases. This meant star Angela Bassett started to receive a reported $450,000 per episode, according to Deadline. This impressive salary put Bassett in an elite group as one of the highest paid stars on network TV and perhaps the highest ever for a woman of color on the small screen. "One of the things I said early in my career is: 'I want to work consistently and I want to be paid fairly,'" Bassett told The Guardian about her big payday. "I think that's what all of us longed for and, if and when that happens, it's a good day. And I hope that it paves the way for equity for others. That's my desire," she added. In addition to her many checks from acting, Bassett also worked on the production side of entertainment like on the documentary series "One Thousand Years of Slavery." With all her streams of income, Bassett was worth an estimated $25 million as of 2022, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Part of her salaries from entertainment went towards an absolutely stunning home in Hollywood. She and her husband Courtney B. Vance purchased the home in the '90s for somewhere between $772,000 and $1.3 million. The couple listed this Fremont Place home in 2007 for a whopping $5,999,000, per Dirt.