Angela Bassett has a presence that feels warm and inviting but also demands your respect. The actor moves like true Hollywood royalty, knowing her worth, dedicated to her craft and remaining confident yet humble throughout a decades-spanning, award-winning career.
On a Tuesday in January, Bassett would wake up just before 3:45 a.m., unable to fall back asleep. In just two hours, she would hear Riz Ahmed announce her name as a best supporting actress Oscar nominee for her performance as Queen Ramonda in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
Bassett remembers turning to wake up her husband, actor Courtney B. Vance (“I couldn’t experience that alone and then tell him about it later,” she said), and immediately receiving a text from fellow Oscar nominee and award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter.
“It was the first nomination and the first name,” she recalled. “I gasped, and that was a shock, that sort of ‘Whoa! Already? You know, give a girl a minute.’”
Carter and Bassett have worked together at least five times on various projects and are longtime friends.
“I was glad to be there for her,” Bassett said of the “brilliant and undeniable” Carter, who won an Oscar in 2019 for the first “Black Panther” movie.
Carter shared the same sentiment about Bassett, saying she’s beyond happy to see her friend celebrated on such a large scale.
“Well, I am beyond happy for her. I remember when I received the Oscar. She came right up, and she was so full of joy and happiness for me,” said Carter at the African American Film Critics Association Awards on March 1.
“And I feel the same way for her,” Carter continued. “Having seen her journey for over 25 years and having had started with her on ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ and how committed she is to her craft, I think that she is due for her flowers, and I’m so excited to be here with her to witness it and share in the love.”
As Queen Ramonda, Bassett played the mother of Chadwick Boseman’s T’challa. She called working with him the “highlight of her career.” She also made history as her Oscar nomination is Marvel’s first in an acting category.
“I’m absolutely thrilled about it. I didn’t know that — that was something that I learned just a couple of weeks ago,” Bassett said at February’s Oscar nominees luncheon. “So, you know, firsts are always nice and hopefully it’s the first of many more.”
Bassett has appeared in cult classic and tentpole films alike, including the late John Singleton’s “Boyz N the Hood” and Forest Whitaker’s “Waiting to Exhale.”
While attending the Santa Barbara Film Festival earlier this year, Bassett said that her time as Katherine Jackson in the 1992 series “The Jacksons: An American Dream” prepared her to portray Tina Turner. Her turn as the singer in “What’s Love Got to Do With It” netted the actor her first Oscar nomination, for best actress.
Nearly 30 years later, Bassett has been engulfed in a whirlwind of award shows and press junkets in preparation for the Oscars. Bassett says she’s “holding on” amid the quick pace of awards season and has a sound machine that lulls her “off to peaceful dreams” as she crosses the town from one red carpet to the next.
Earlier this year, she won the Golden Globe for best supporting actress. She’s also become a viral meme thanks to Ariana DeBose proclaiming that “Angela Bassett did the thing!” in a BAFTA performance. Bassett also recently took home the NAACP Image Award for Entertainer of the Year.
While Bassett is excited about her Oscar nomination, she acknowledges the Academy’s failure to include more artists of color and women in their list of nominees. She advises that Academy members should expand their frame of reference when considering films and performances.
“But I would say first and foremost, see an array of movies. Whether you think you can relate to it or not, or it looks like you or not, or the stories seem intriguing or not, give all a chance because it’s — well, it’s easy, and it’s possible to miss very, very fine performances,” Bassett told the AP. “But frame of reference is everything. So, have a wide and open frame of reference.”
As March 12 approaches, Bassett’s supporters wait to see if this is the year that she becomes forever known as Academy Award-winning actor Angela Bassett. But where would she display her Oscar if that moment does arrive?
“You know, something like that looks good anywhere,” Bassett said. “Maybe it’ll have to take a little tour, see where it wants to land. Right in my hand, near my heart.”