When you're ready…"
Those are the three words that first-time director Angela Bassett used to guide her cast on day one of shooting Lifetime's much-talked-about biopic Whitney (which premiered January 17). The Oscar and Emmy-nominated actress admits to being a bit timid about yelling, "Action!" but that quickly faded as she was more than up to the task of chronicling the life of the late singer (and her Waiting to Exhale costar).
"I didn't choose this project as much as it chose me," says Bassett, who helmed the 88-minute TV movie in Los Angeles while traveling to and from New Orleans to tape the drama series American Horror Story: Freak Show.
When the film, starring Yaya DaCosta in the title role, was announced last summer, Houston's family expressed concern about not being consulted. Bassett was empathetic. "I can understand how it might be tough for them," she says, "but because she means so much to us, my goal was always to tell her story honestly, with passion and to the best of my ability. Whitney deserves it."
This article was originally published in the February 2015 issue of ESSENCE Magazine, on newstands now!