Angela Bassett and her husband, actor Courtney B. Vance, try to keep their 12-year-old twins away from the glare of Hollywood. But the couple made a rare exception for the premiere of Black Panther, the Marvel epic in which Bassett plays the mother of Chadwick Boseman’s heroic Wakandan leader.
“We keep them back from premieres and this sort of thing,” Bassett said, speaking by phone last week from the set of her new TV drama, 9-1-1. “We try to keep them doing their own thing, out and away from it all. But [Black Panther] was one that we felt it was imperative that they experienced and witnessed. It’s an iconic film. It’s such positive images . . . They can see themselves in a light as warriors, as heroes, as kings, as queens, and potential panthers. All things positive. I really wanted them to experience something that in the way they carry themselves, how they walk through the day, with their heads held high and their chests poked out, feeling good about who they are.”
Bassett said her children, son Slater and daughter Bronwyn, visited the movie’s set as well, where they saw a version of Black Panther’s women warriors in the form of writer-director Ryan Coogler’s crew, which had an unusual number of women in key roles. “Ryan had his own Dora Milaje,” Bassett said. “Rachel Morrison as the cinematographer and Ruth E. Carter as the costume designer and Hannah Beachler as the production designer.”
“I saw these kids on the set during the day and to see them running around and helping me with my queen garb,” Bassett said. “The love they were getting from the actors, it was immediate family. They are all aunties and uncles. As we’re waiting on the mountains, with the waterfalls cascading between us and the drummers just drumming, passing the time, the entire mountain would just yell and sway and dance and just groove and gyrate. It was like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It was just like a familiarity and call that went up to the heavens. So it was pretty spectacular. It was just a source of unbearable pride, except that I could bear it. I would bear it a million times over and over.”
Speaking in the days before the film opened, Bassett said she was heartened by the strong box-office projections for the film, which went on to make a record-breaking $235 million over the holiday weekend. “For a movie to be so longed for and anticipated by audiences, by children, by women, it reaches out and grabs everyone,” she said. “Young, mature, black, white, Asian, Latin. It’s just more interesting to today’s young audiences, to today’s world.”
“This has to open up success,” Bassett said of Black Panther’s critical and commercial achievement. “I hope that this is a clarion call, that it’s something that continues. It’s so satisfying. It’s a unicorn is what it is! Maybe we’ll start seeing baby unicorns running around after this.”
Get Vanity Fair’s HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Rebecca KeeganRebecca Keegan is a Hollywood Correspondent for Vanity Fair.