July 2001
An interview with Angela Bassett

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

Angela Bassett

An interview with Angela Bassett

Angela Bassett is one, if not the best, leading African-American actress today. She has played so many well-known historical figures from Betty Shabazz, to Katherine Jackson to her Oscar nominated role as Tina Turner. When a film like ďThe ScoreĒ comes around, and the female role is limited, but the leading male cast is an all-star of thespians, the producers of the film couldnít go wrong when they chose Bassett. Angela shares her thoughts on the film with blackfilm.com.

WB: Can you talk about your character and the role she played opposite De Niro?

AB: Sheís his love interest. He genuinely cares about her, and for her. Theyíve had an understanding for quite a while, but they are ready to take it to the next level, to the next stage, but that requires changes to be made in his life. Itís a dangerous profession and she says ďI donít want to talk to you through glass or Iíll probably visit you at the cemetery leaving flowers.Ē Itís up to him, and I love him, but everyone has to make a decision about their life and he figures it out. She knows just enough, but not too much. It changed a little because initially she knew nothing. There were changes in the script so as it all settled down and we see it today, she knows. I think she was aware of the kind of work he was into but not the intricacies, but that was probably by choice, and because the type of man he is. He doesnít tell all he knows or shows all his cards and thatís what keeps it really interesting and tense.

The Score

WB: Was it easy to work with De Niro? Is he very intense?

AB: I think it depends on the role that heís doing or the scene and our scenes were really comfortable when he jokes and plays, and when he does his thing, heís just absolutely charming. When he laughs and when he opens up and gets really warm, and youíre playing opposite him, you really do laugh for real as opposed to thinking that it is an easy moment and Iím supposed to go ha-ha. When he does his thing, youíre there, which is nice because itís not like that all the time. Heís one of the best.

WB: Who brought this role to you and why did you decide to take it?

AB: My manager called me up and my agents approached the producers. They got all the scripts, read the scripts and approached the director Frank Oz and he said yes. So they called me back and said I had an offer. I didnít have to meet the director because he was familiar with my work and they were very open to the idea. So then I had to meet De Niro.

WB: What was that like?

AB: Iím glad we did that because I would have been nervous. If you show up the first day and now youíre supposed to be boyfriend/girlfriend and intimate, I would have been nervous. Because we met a few weeks before shooting, that sort of broke the ice. You get the call and you meet him in the lobby of the place at this time. They told me to meet him at 2:15 pm and I was there in 20 minutes.

WB: Will you do anymore stage work?

AB: I hope so. I donít have any plans right now. A friend of mine is starting an arts festival in England. I wonít even say the name of it because I donít know much. I have a friend there whoís a barrister and another friend who went to the Yale Drama school with me and they are starting it and they want me and Courtney (B. Vance) to do something, maybe like Boesman and Lena.

WB: Is that really going to happen?

AB: Yeah, itís happening, starting April 2002.

WB: You didnít have any scenes with Ed Norton. Did you connect with him being that you both went to the Yale Drama School?

AB: Yeah. We went to dinner. We would meet at script meetings, sit down and talk about our characters, about the story and the arc, but yeah we had a nice time together.

WB: What were your feelings when you read that Marlon Brando would be in the film?

AB: None. Really. I donít know. Interesting. Probably interesting. I mean you donít see a lot of him. You have memories of him. It has been a long time. So, I donít know. I was hoping for something good and it turned out quite wonderful. There was one point where I had a scene with him where I would have been nervous. The scene is where I walked in on Brando and I had a little exchange with him. The scene really didnít make sense. It was as if I had more info and I was telling his character... It just did not make sense even to me, for that to happen. This guyís girlfriend saying something about her manís business to him. I think we all knew that was wrong. So the scene wasnít shot.

WB: Were you skeptical to Frank Ozís style of directing considering his background is mostly in comedies?

AB: I wondered for a bit but I would have to say honestly I was very pleased to be in a film whether it was good or bad with De Niro, Norton and Brando even if I donít have any scenes with them, I thought it was pretty good company to keep. When you have good actors. You can almost have a bad script and they can fool you. But with good actors and a decent script, you canít go wrong. After seeing the final product after all the edits, you sit there and say to yourself ďIs that what we did?Ē

WB: How much time did you spend in Montreal?

AB: I enjoyed it. Itís French. Very French. Every other person speaking French. Just interesting. Iíve been in Toronto before but thatís like being in Brooklyn, NY. It was nice. I was here once for 2 days for the movie ďMusic of the heart,Ē so I didnít get a chance to enjoy the city.

WB: Did you get to see Cassandra Wilson perform?

AB: No. We were working at the time. But I did get to go to a number of festivals.

WB: Are you getting roles for black women as opposed to just women?

AB: I think it goes both ways. I just did Rosa Parks. Itís called the Rosa Parks story. Julie Dash directed it and it also stars Peter Francis James, a New Yorker actor.

WB: Whatís next for you?

AB: Iím producing a Showtime piece called ďOur America,Ē about young boys from Chicago who became journalists and they ended up winning a Peabody ward. It was a story from National Public Radio, and it made 60 minutes. Along with the Rosa Parks story, Iím thinking about directing, but I know itís a lot of work and I appreciate what directors do and I would like to be good at it. The opportunity has presented itself 4 to 5 times and I usually said no because of the script. At this time Iíve got enough projects to work with.