In the 30 years Angela Bassett has been making movies, she has never once lost her groove. After beginning with bit parts in films (F/X, Kindergarten Cop) and television shows (The Cosby Show, Thirtysomething), the native New Yorker’s star exploded in the early ‘90s thanks to simmering roles in a trifecta of seminal films: Boyz N’ the Hood, Malcolm X, and What’s Love Got to Do With It.
Though Bassett’s parts have run the gamut from housewife to pop star, there has been one common denominator to them all: They are tough-as-nails, fiercely independent women, and clear spiritual offshoots of the 57-year-old herself.
Speaking of strong women, Bassett reprises her role as Secret Service boss Lynne Jacobs in her latest project, the Olympus Has Fallen sequel, London Has Fallen. The action-thriller — which hits theaters on Friday — reteams Bassett with costars Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman as terrorists plot to take out world leaders gathering for the funeral of Britain’s prime minister.
Bassett, who can also currently be seen in multiple roles on the hit FX anthology series American Horror Story, shared some first-hand emotions with us from the sets of her most beloved projects in our latest installment of Role Recall (watch above). The highlights.
Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Four years after a bit part as “TV Reporter” in the 1986 action favorite F/X, Bassett was still paying her dues when she turned up in one scene as “Stewardess” in this Arnold Schwarzenegger family hit. “I was glad to have a job. I think they paid me like $750,” she said. “So $750 and Arnold Schwarzenegger? I was aces.”
Boyz N’ the Hood (1991)
Bassett’s big breakout came in this groundbreaking drama from first-time director John Singleton. And having done mostly episodic TV work, she was well aware it was a break. “He was just very young, and bright-eyed,” Bassett said of Singleton, who would go on to become the youngest filmmaker ever nominated for a Best Director Oscar.
Malcolm X (1992)
The actress held her own opposite Oscar nominee Denzel Washington as Malcolm X’s wife, Dr. Betty Shabazz, in Spike Lee’s acclaimed biopic. She recalled how much the film meant to her and her cast mates: “We were all so enormously attached to the making of it. We were so respectful in that moment,” she said. “We carried the spirit of that time and of that movement with us.”
What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993)
Bassett earned much love and an Oscar nomination for her fierce portrayal of singer Tina Turner in the big-screen biopic. “It was so demanding, emotionally, every day,” said Bassett. “[There was no] easy day or easy week or easy setup. Every day, every scene, emotionally grueling.”
Bassett as Tina Turner in ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’
Waiting to Exhale (1995)
After playing one iconic songstress in What’s Love Got To Do With It, Bassett co-starred with another (Whitney Houston) in Forest Whitaker’s adaption of Terry McMillan’s bestselling book. She recalled improvising her way through the drama’s famous car-burning scene, and cited her tough-talking mother as her character’s inspiration.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
Bassett had a role in choosing which young actor her character, an older woman on a Caribbean vacation, would seduce in this popular rom-com also based on a McMillan book. “There was something about Taye [Diggs],” she said. “He was just the whole package. And I was very happy to have this handsome costar.”
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
You had to respect Bassett’s authority when she played the director of the Secret Service in this surprise box-office hit. Director Antoine Fuqua rewrote the role, changing the gender from male to female, so that Bassett could play her. And the actress noted proudly that while there had never been a woman in that position in real life, life imitated art shortly after, when President Obama appointed Julia A. Pierson to the job.
London Has Fallen opens March 4. Watch the trailer: