Angela Bassett Breaks Down How 'Waiting To Exhale' Paved The Way For More Women-Led Programming

Matthew Jordan Smith

Rachaell Davis Oct, 12, 2018

As a Black actress in Hollywood who has built a successful career portraying strong, multifaceted women on screen, Angela Bassett knows a thing or two about the role classic Black films played in setting the stage for more diverse programming.

From a hard-working single mother in Boyz N The Hood, to the fearless wife of a civil rights icon in Malcolm X, to a superstar entertainer in What’s Love Got To Do With It, to the director of the Secret Service in Olympus Has Fallen, to the queen of an African nation in Black Panther, Bassett’s flawless portrayals have repeatedly reminded the world that there are no limits to the depths of Black women.

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In the film adaptation of Terry McMillan’s Waiting To Exhale, viewers were ushered into the world of Black sisterhood like never before. Speaking candidly during a one-on-one conversation for the Hollywood Confidential panel series, the film and television icon briefly detailed how the 1995 box office smash helped open doors for other popular programs featuring women-led casts.

“It was a wonderful experience and for it to be a film that featured four women—and four Black women, at that— I really think that was a time that turned things around when they talked about “chick flicks,” Bassett said. “Because, up until that point, in so many other films, you had the lead being a White guy, and then his best friend might be a Black guy, and then you had the girlfriend, who was a white woman. So, by the time they got to [Black women], we’d get, like, the secretary or “girlfriend of the lead’s best friend” role.”

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Elaborating further, Bassett also touched on the reach of the film, which exceeded expectations and ultimately ushered in a wave of more film and television programming that told women’s stories from a more multidimensional angle.

“But with that film, you had four female leads and then after that, you got your “Sex and the City” and after that, you got your First Wives Club, but, it took Terry McMillan to bring those four divas that she crafted with all of this flavor to life. And then, you all going to see it and others going to see it. I remember when I burned the car, a photo of that scene wasn’t on the entertainment page, it was on the cover of the business section [of the newspaper] because it made more than what we generally thought. It went above and beyond, which meant that more than our beautiful hues were seeing the [movie], which meant more folks were interested in the story that we were telling.”

Hopefully, the “Queen Mutha” will return to reprise her role in the Black Panther sequel, which will reportedly see director Ryan Coogler back at the helm.