Just A Minute With: Angela Bassett on "Notorious"

Thu Jan 8, 2009 9:44am EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Angela Bassett likes jazz more than rap, but in her latest film she plays the mother of slain rapper Christopher Wallace in "Notorious," which depicts the rap world at a violent time.

The movie, which debuts in U.S. theaters on January 16, takes place in the mid-1990s when an East Coast versus West Coast rivalry raged between the backers of L.A.-based hip hop star Tupac Shakur and Brooklyn-born Wallace, whose stage name was The Notorious B.I.G.

Shakur was slain in 1996. Wallace was murdered the following year. Both killings are unsolved. Bassett said the murders made her feel the "brightest stars had just fallen out of the sky."

The Yale-educated Bassett, 50, who was nominated for an Oscar for playing singer Tina Turner in 1993 film "What's Love Got to Do with It," spoke to Reuters about the film, working with her husband and her hopes for President-elect Barack Obama.

Q: What experiences or memories of your own mother did you draw on in playing the role?

A: "She always pulled our coat-tails and it was as if she had spies everywhere. So we feared our mom and knew that news would get back to her. It was also more of a community, that if they saw me hitchhiking way across town, copying what the other kids did, I would get an earful from my neighbor, and then I would get an earful plus from my mom when I got home."

Q: In 2006, you and your husband, Courtney B. Vance, became parents to twins. How does being a mom influence your job playing a mom in a movie like "Notorious"?

A: "I don't think that it changes it too much because I've always had a yearning for children, and seeing that they do well and they have exposure and resources. I knew how important it was to me that the community cared about me and pushed me and believed in me and championed me and held high expectations for me. ... I appreciate that in my own life, so whenever I work with young people and I portray their mother, I feel as if I am. I look out for them on the set.   Continued...

<p>Voletta Wallace (R), mother of slain rapper Christopher "Notorious B.I.G" Wallace arrives with actress Angela Bassett to the premiere of the film "Notorious" in New York January 7, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>