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Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige talk ‘Betty & Coretta’

Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige talk Betty & CorettaPosted by Wilson Morales

January 29, 2013

Last night, attended the premiere of Lifetime’s Betty & Coretta,  which tells the dual stories of Coretta Scott King (played by Angela Bassett) and Dr. Betty Shabazz (played by Mary J. Blige) as they carry on as single mothers following the assassinations of their husbands, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Held at the Tribeca Cinema with a reception co-hosted by Essence Magazine, attended included Bassett, Blige, Lindsay Owen Pierre, Malik Yoba, Ruby Dee, Chersie Boothe, producer Larry Sanitsky, Tyra Banks, and Miss J. Alexander.

Focusing on the extraordinary women behind the two men who would change history, Betty & Coretta tells the similar true stories of Coretta Scott King (Angela Bassett), wife of Dr. Martin Luther King (Malik Yoba) and Dr. Betty Shabazz (Mary J. Blige), wife of Malcolm X (Lindsay Owen Pierre). When their husbands were tragically assassinated, these two women not only inherited the mantle of the civil rights movement in America, each also found herself to be a single mother who had to find a way to raise and support her children with no husband or father, resulting in a relationship like no other that spanned more than three decades. had a chance to speak with Blige and Bassett about playing iconic figures, and what they learned from playing the roles.

What drew you to the project?

Mary J. Blige: When the material was brought to us by Polly Anthony, she told us that Betty and Coretta were friends and I had no idea that they were friends. I had no idea that the families knew each other. The first that came to mind was that no one had ever told the story from the perspective of a woman in a relationship with a powerful man. Women never get a chance to tell their story and how they helped those get to where they are, and vice-versa. Women never get a chance to say, “I’m important too.” I not only wanted to tell the story because of that but because these women saved each other’s lives and that’s what my friends and I do for each other. By being there when times are really hard.

What did you learn about Coretta that you had not known before?

Angela Bassett: I think the magnitude of her charm, gentility, strength, and her awareness early on of what might be of the high price that might be required of them; and how she was willing to travel that road. She was a part of this despite knowing that it could be dangerous and it cost their lives; but she was so sure of her purpose in life even when her parents and family were like, “Please dear!” She was so sure for her love for Martin and their purpose together. She was willing to the last days of her life. When there was a need to be there, she was there.

After people see the film, what is it that they will learn about Betty that can’t found in books?

Mary J. Blige: Everything is all there, but I didn’t know that she liked to dance and she had such a sense of humor.

Having played Betty Shabazz before, did you give Mary any tips on playing the character?

AB: No. Not a bit about it. It’s about just being in the moment and reacting to one another. Being with each other right there and not about a movie I did so many years ago. I was not attempting to be intimidating in any way but only supportive and loving. That’s what we were about to do. I love and respect her and it was great. Our stories start to overlap a little bit around that time period and then we closer after their assassinations. It’s really about the strengths and fortitude of these women and how they kept the legacy of these men alive and in the public consciousness. Even when I was at the King Monument last weekend, they were able to keep that in the forefront of our consciousness. To awaken the hopelessness of our country about what we need to do in terms of our least, the ones that have little access (poor people, Black people, women, lesbian, gay). That was Mrs. King’s fight even after her husband was gone. She was able to do more that he was at the time because she was apart. She was able to speak on issues that affect people other than Black people.

What did you learn from taking on this role?

MJB: As an actress, acting is a very hard job to do. You have to study your craft. You have to be serious about it if you really want it and actors are amazing.

AB: I’m just a woman being American and who has a heart for things to get better. A heart for people.

How was working with Angela?

MJB: I’m one of Angela’s biggest fans so that was a dream come true for me. She’s an amazing woman.

Kicking off Lifetime’s Black History Month celebration, Betty & Coretta will premiere Saturday, February 2, at 8:00pm ET/PT.

Photos provided by Getty Images.

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