‘True love is possible’
At the age of 48 Angela Bassett is pushing back the boundaries for older women in Hollywood in more ways than one. Not only is she still one of the most successful and in-demand actresses in Tinseltown, she also became a first-time mum just three years short of her 50th birthday.
And it’s clear that despite all her film successes - including an Oscar nomination for the Ike and Tina Turner biopic ‘What’s Love Got To Do With it’ - it’s being mum to one-year-olds Bronwyn Golden and Josiah Slater that brings a megawatt smile to her face. “Having the twins has completely changed my priorities,” she says. “Work is still important but there are different priorities at different times in your life and right now mine are for my babies.”
The twins arrived after she and husband actor Courtney B Vance used a surrogate mother. Now the hard-working star says her stellar career revolves around her two little ones. “I’ve been offered lots of lead roles, but I’ll only consider them if they fit in with my time with the children. I just want to be with them,” she reasons. The stunning star also insists that being an older mum has made her feel sexier and more confident than ever.
“There is definitely a confidence that comes in your 40s,” she says. “It’s just not something you have to work so hard at.” Known for her feisty independent roles in hard-hitting dramas such as ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back’, ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ and ‘Malcolm X’, Angela admits the twins have not only brought out her softer side off screen, but also in her choice of movie roles.
That’s why she leapt at the chance to appear in the new family animation ‘Meet The Robinsons’. The story follows Lewis, a little boy genius who, in his quest to find the parents he never knew, finds himself travelling into the future and suddenly sharing his life with the mysterious but fun-loving Robinson family who help unleash his powerful potential.
In the movie, which also features Tom Selleck, Angela lends her distinctive voice to the character of Mildred, the patient and kind caretaker at the orphanage that has always been home to Lewis. Playing such an endearing character brought out all her maternal instincts, the actress says.
“I absolutely loved the story,” Angela beams. “And as a new mom I found it especially appealing because it’s about a little boy looking for a family and about the many ways to make family. “Mildred’s ambition, her dream, her occupation and her greatest commitment is to finding each and every one of her orphanage kids a loving family - one who will see them for who they are and love and appreciate their own special uniqueness,” she continues.
“She loves all the kids, but has a special place in her heart for Lewis. She understands how different he is, how he marches to the beat of his own drummer. I think she sees a little Albert Einstein in the making.” Having never done an animated movie before, Angela says she was captivated by the process of bringing Lewis and the Robinson family to life.
“It’s been one of the biggest thrills in my career to lend my voice and see these characters in all their animated glory,” she enthuses. “Mildred has a fantastic look, so endearing and cute with her little eyeglasses and hairdo. I loved it.
To me, it’s amazing what the animators have come up with on this film.”
Angela admits she also liked the fact that working on animation wasn’t as time-consuming as her normal roles. “This was very easy to do,” she explains. “It’s different than working on screen. Those films take forever - years to complete. “So with two young ones at home, I really appreciated a different way of working.”
And though the film is animated, Angela was able to draw on her own experiences of growing to help her relate to orphan boy Lewis. Born in New York, she and her younger sister were raised by their mother Betty, who later divorced their father. The star then spent much of her childhood living with her Auntie Golden in Harlem and, though times were tough, Angela’s mother always stressed the importance of education and following your dreams.
“She instilled in me a sense of independence, so I was always the self-check kid - the one you don’t have to worry about,” Angela says. “But the only thing with that is when you do the slightest thing wrong, you really go off. “That was me and my mom,” she adds with a laugh.
Those difficult early years are a far cry from Angela’s idyllic home life now. The star and her husband of ten years, whom she met at Yale Drama School, are so devoted to one another, they recently wrote a book about their relationship: ‘Friends: A Love Story’. “We just wanted to show that true love is possible and a good old-fashioned love story is one that should be told,” Angela smiles.
“We hope it serves as a guide for other people in their relationships.” Happy in love and at work after finding a new direction in family films, Angela admits she couldn’t be more blessed. And though she has several projects lined up including the new film ‘Toussaint’ with Don Cheadle and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the actress knows what’s really important in her life, and love has everything to do with it. “Having the children makes you notice all kids and you think how beautiful they are, and dying for affection, and brilliant, and just how important that is.”
Real name: Angela Evelyn Bassett
Birthdate: August 16, 1958
Significant other: Husband of ten years Courtney B Vance
Career high: An Oscar-nominated performance in ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’
Career low: ‘The Jacksons: An American Dream’, the forgettable 1992 Jackson family biopic
Famous for: Her spot-on portrayal of Tina Turner in ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’, even though she had never seen the singer perform
Words of Wisdom: “I really believe that what I do as an actress is my God-given talent. This is my calling. Not my career.”