Angela Bassett Reveals Which Films Have Been ‘Highlights’ of Her Career (Video)

Angela Bassett attends the Montecito Award Ceremony during the 3th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 09, 2023 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images for SBIFF)

From the Black Panther franchise, to Waiting to Exhale, and Boyz n the Hood, Angela Bassett has a resume filled with iconic films.

The actress looked back on her career and the impact of her critically acclaimed performance in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on Feb. 9, as she was honored at the Santa Barbara International Film (SBIFF) in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Ryan Coogler, who directed both Black Panther films, presented Bassett with the festival’s Montecito Award for her contributions to cinema. The director told the audience he pushed Bassett to her limits while filming Wakanda Forever, including requiring her to tap into her grief after lead actor Chadwick Boseman died in August 2020.

“I had to ask a lot of her. This time she was going to have to get into the water, well beyond her depths where she felt comfortable,” Coogler said. “She was going to have to do her own stunt work. She was going to have to be a queen, and a head of state, and a grieving mother.”

Related Story: ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Embraced by Fans for ‘Incredible’ Performances

Ryan Coogler (R) presents Angela Bassett (L) with the Montecito Award during the 38th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival at The Arlington Theatre on February 09, 2023 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images for SBIFF)
Ryan Coogler presents Angela Bassett with the Montecito Award. (Credit: Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images for SBIFF)

As Bassett accepted the award, she said she was honored to take on the challenges the role required.

“Thank you, Ryan for being here tonight,” she said. “He truly could have chosen anyone to take on the role of Queen Ramonda, but I am blessed that he chose me.”

She added, “The journey together has been one of the highlights of my career and I will always treasure the magic that Ryan and Chadwick Boseman led us toward in Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

[Watch the video below]

During the Q&A portion of the event, Bassett discussed some of her favorite movie roles, including playing Reva in Boyz n the Hood (1991); Bernadine in Waiting to Exhale (1995); Stella in How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998); and Lena in South African drama Boesman and Lena (2000).

Bassett said she’d been “pigeonholed” as a TV actress after working on soap operas in the 1970s and ’80s, but Boyz n the Hood writer-director John Singleton gave her a chance.

“He was 19. He was young. I remember going to Leimert Park, down in the [South Los Angeles] neighborhood and sitting with him. He was just wonderful, he was really kind,” she recalled. “It was a role that was loosely based on his mother. He told me he liked the way my mouth sort of curled in a growl.”

When she got the call for Waiting to Exhale, Bassett said she suspected the film would be special because the Terry McMillan novel upon which it was based, was so popular.

“I knew when I lived in New York, I saw everyone on the subway, on the A Train reading that book. So I thought, ‘This is going to be successful,’ because it already had an incredible audience,” she explained.

Still, she said the film’s success wasn’t guaranteed because “we had never seen characters on film like this … four strong Black women, compelling, interesting, loving, hopeful, in various situations.”

Related Story: Angela Bassett Wants to ‘Change the Conversation’ in Hollywood

Angela Bassett attends the Montecito Award Ceremony during the 3th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 09, 2023 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images for SBIFF
Outside the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. (Credit: Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images for SBIFF)

The film from director Forest Whitaker also starred Loretta Devine, Lela Rochon, and the late Whitney Houston. It earned $81 million at the worldwide box office and boosted Bassett’s profile in Hollywood.

Three years later, the Yale drama school graduate landed the title role in How Stella Got Her Groove Back — another movie based on a Terry McMillan novel. This time, Bassett had the power to choose her love interest.

“I felt pretty successful at that time. I even got to weigh in on who I wanted to be my Winston Shakespeare,” she said. “There were screen tests for the men and then I got to pick which one, ‘and [I considered] who would the ladies like?’ Here we have this trained one with a British accent, but no. He’s the muscles, so we landed on Taye [Diggs].”

She added that she was “thrilled” to shoot Boesman and Lena in South Africa and to bring attention to the issues of racism and Apartheid.

In addition to being honored at SBIFF, Bassett recently picked up Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards for her performance in Wakanda Forever. She’s nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Oscar as well.

Watch the video of the full ceremony honoring Angela Bassett below.