Angela Evelyn Bassett is an actress and producer known for her depictions of powerful women in history on stage, television, and in major movies.
Bassett was born on August 16, 1958, in New York, New York. After her father, Daniel Benjamin Bassett, and her mother, Betty Jane (Gilbert), divorced when she was four years old, Bassett, her sister D’Nette and their mother relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida. She attended Jordan Park Elementary School, Disston Middle School (7th), and Azalea Middle School (8th & 9th). At Boca Ciega High School, she was a cheerleader, member of the choir, debate team, student government, the drama club, and was the first African American student from her school to be accepted into the National Honor Society. She graduated in 1976, and furthered her education at Yale University, in New Haven Connecticut, graduating in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in African-American Studies. Bassett then attended the Yale School of Drama, graduating with a master’s degree in fine arts in 1983.
Bassett worked as a photo researcher and receptionist for a beauty salon before her first acting job, in a play at Second Stage Theatre, New York, entitled “Black Girl” (1985), written by J.E. Franklin. She then had roles in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and Joe Turner’s “Come and Gone,” both written by August Wilson. Her first television role was also in 1985 in the made-for-TV movie “Doubletake,” and she made her film debut in the movie “F/X” (1986). Bassett relocated to Los Angeles, California in 1988, and earned early recognition with her portrayals of Betty Shabazz, in the film “Malcolm X” (1992), directed by Spike Lee; Katherine Jackson in the made-for-TV ABC movie “The Jacksons: An American Dream;” and Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got To Do With It” (1993). She had starring roles in “Waiting to Exhale” (1995) and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” (1998), both adaptations of books written by author Terry McMillan.
In 2002, Bassett portrayed Rosa Parks in the made-for-tv movie “The Rosa Parks Story.” Her voice was used in the movie “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (2005) as Ms. April. She played Shatter a Decepticon in “Bumblebee” (2018), a narrator in the National Geographic film “The Flood” (2018), Mildred in the animated film “Meet The Robinsons” (2007), and Dorothea Williams in Disney’s “Soul” (2020). Adding to her list of influential women, Bassett portrayed Voletta Wallace, mother of rapper The Notorious B.I.G., in “Notorious” (2009), Coretta Scott King in the Lifetime network film “Betty and Coretta” (2013), and Louisiana Creole Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau on the FX television show “American Horror Story” (2013).
Her role as Queen Ramonda in “Black Panther” (2018) and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2022) earned Bassett the SAG and BAFTA nominations, as well as a Critic’s Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress, a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress at the 80th Golden Globe Awards, and the first Academy Award nomination for anyone in a Marvel Studios movie. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from Morehouse College, Old Dominion University, Chapman University, and Yale. Bassett is an active Celebrity Ambassador for UNICEF in support of Type 2 diabetes, an honorary member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010.
Bassett married Courtney B. Vance in 1997, and the couple welcomed twins Bronwyn and Slater in 2006.