Angela Bassett: I Love a Woman Kicking Butt

Raechal Shewfelt
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Angela Bassett (Jason Laveris/FilmMagic)

If Angela Bassett were not so good at her job — having collected nominations for three Emmys and an Oscar in her 30 years as an actor — she could easily have a career as a self-help guru. 

The 57-year-old star has a lovely answer when asked what makes her, a woman who seems so strong, feel vulnerable. 

“When I’ve taken off and not gone to the gym, when I’ve eaten all the things that I know I shouldn’t eat, and yet here comes another opportunity, a time when I have to be on and center,” Bassett tells Yahoo Celebrity. “I’ve got to start all over again, and I could’ve kept going, yet I slacked off. And so starting over makes me feel vulnerable and weak, but with each day of putting in the hard work and the sweat and the labor, you get stronger. I mean, you feel that physically in your body. Emotionally, it’s just being surrounded by those who support you, encourage you, inspire you, get you, allow you… and yet also pull your coat if you’re getting off track, that makes me feel strong. 

"And spiritually, I think just knowing that I am not the center of the universe and don’t mistake my presence for ‘the event,’ but appreciate all those who are around me and individual gifts and strengths that they bring… that makes me feel strong." 

Bassett has made a career of playing women of strength, from Tina Turner in 1993's What’s Love Got to Do With It to Coretta Scott King in Lifetime’s movie Betty and Coretta 20 years later. She’s taking on a character who’s strong in an entirely different way in the upcoming video game "Rainbow Six: Siege,” the latest title based on the work of late writer Tom Clancy. Bassett portrays Six, the leader of a counter-terrorism team assembled to protect the world. 

Bassett films Rainbow Six: Siege. (Colin Young-Wolff)

“You love breaking new ground and being the first and so, in this particular situation, when they said that it was the first woman to play the role of Six in any of the Tom Clancy ‘Rainbow Six’ games or books, that in and of itself was appealing and piqued my interest,” she says. “The audience is huge and it’s a different demographic for me, so there are just so many reasons to say yes. I’m always cognizant of a woman’s persona in media. Be it film or television, you know it’s always been something that I thought about. Because I love the strength and the resilience of a woman, a woman in charge and kicking butt, and yet feminine but very bright and complex, so it just had a lot going for it. It was an easy 'yes’ for me.”

Bassett plays Six. (Colin Young-Wolff)

It’s not clear to Bassett why she chooses to play so many women who are fighters. However, she believes her late mother, Betty, had something to do with it. 

“Maybe growing up in a single family household with my mom, my sister, and I,” Bassett notes. “I think it’s her pushing me, her having high expectations of us, her not taking average. I think that sort of push… I think she kind of planted that in me and it’s just a way to have some sort of control in a world where you hardly have any." 

The game won’t be released until Dec. 1, but Bassett will return to the small screen for the new season of American Horror Story when it premieres Wednesday on FX at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Interestingly, the star of such a creepy series has admitted that there’s a lot she doesn’t like about the Halloween season. 

Related: American Horror Story: Hotel Scoop: Lady Gaga Will Romance Angela Bassett, Plus More Details!

But she did dress up last year. "I stole one of [AHS co-star] Kathy Bates’s beards and I went as the bearded lady,” she reveals with a laugh, adding that she ended up spending the holiday in New Orleans, which is “the place” for adults on Oct. 31. 

The star works on AHS. (FX)

“What scares me is those interactive experiences, jumping out at you, and blood,” Bassett confesses. “It’s supposed to be fun, [but] it’s not fun, because my imagination is too active. I’m just a scaredy cat. I like a love story and a comedy. I don’t like horror pictures, so it’s funny that I ended up on the show." 

When she’s back home in L.A. for Halloween, Bassett goes trick-or-treating with her 9-year-old twins. 

"We go up to the doors and do our thing, then we come home and give them a little bit of candy — my husband [State of Affairs actor Courtney B. Vance] being the dessert and candy police, throws the rest out. I think it’s a waste, but the kids are used to it by now. I sneak some back in.”