Angela Bassett talks to Fast Company’s Co.Create about making her directorial debut with the Lifetime biopic Whitney, which focuses on five years in the life of superstar Whitney Houston.
“I had my little erase board at home like, ‘what is this about?’ It’s about love,” Bassett says about their decision to focus on the love story between Houston and husband Bobby Brown. “It’s a love story and it’s about all the pressures that come to kill and destroy love and how equipped are you to fight those things off… With every scene I tried to find what’s beneath it and how can we honestly serve that moment.”
The award-winning actress admits that taking the director’s chair was intimidating. “When I thought about directing I always thought it must be almost impossible—it must be something akin to doing Chinese mathematics and you don’t know Chinese,” she says. “So if you’re going to attempt that, you better be in love with it! And I was in love with her, so I was passionate about the task. Though intimidated, though insecure at times, I felt as if her spirit was right there.”
Bassett also relied on her known strengths. “I spoke the actors’ language. I was able to understand and see their gifts and what they’re bringing. When they were shy I could encourage them,” she said, recalling getting over her own fears when she was playing Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It. “I [also] think being a woman [director] was important to the story. Maybe even being a black woman also or a woman who’s had a bit of celebrity. I have a little more insight and understanding to what that’s like.”
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