• Golden Globe Awards

Out of the Archives: Angela Bassett on Playing Tina Turner

Angela Bassett won a Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Musical for playing Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It.  She spoke about her role to Hollywood Foreign Press journalists in 1993.
“I was very nervous because Tina Turner is so much in the public eye, but I had a confidence because recently I portrayed other women who are still alive and I’ve had the opportunity to meet (Betty Shabazz and Katherine Jackson), so it wasn’t a totally brand-new experience. But because she’s performing even now as we speak, it was nerve-racking for me initially. It felt as if it would be a high wire act over flames, and the slightest thing could make me fall off because we have her performances to compare mine to.”
“But I thank God for her because she’s so supportive, when I walked in and met her the first time, she was so giving and so accessible, so warm and so loving, she just embraced me, figuratively and literally.”
“There’s a scene between Ike and Tina, that was a very crucial and important moment for me, as well as for Laurence, that formed their relationship, which began in a painful way, so it continues in pain. It’s when we stroll in the park and it was lovey-dovey, then all of a sudden, she says, ‘What did you hit me for?  Why are you saying these mean, cruel things?’”
“That’s a question that I had personally. She’s so talented, she’s so beautiful, she’s so vibrant. Why did she stay with him? Her book answered a lot of it, and then being in her company, observing her, it was such joy to meet someone who had been through so much and was not cynical, not speaking badly of Ike any opportunity she had.”
“I remember my mother saying, ‘grown folk do not beat grown folk, it is not acceptable,’ so that was my frame of reference, my example, what I grew up with. When you can’t sit and talk, if you can’t express yourself verbally, and we know that there’s emotional abuse that goes on also, you need to get up and leave the room. That’s why I wanted to do the film, not because it’s Tina and she’s gorgeous, it’s music and I’m the lead, but because of what it can say to people, that abuse is insidious and prevalent. If it’s not us, it’s in our family, it’s in our community, and it’s really sad, it breaks my heart that some of us think, ‘If I can’t talk to you, if we don’t agree, then I’ll beat up on you physically.’”
“Tina is so loyal, giving and generous, that maybe in that time, you stayed with your husband, and, if you didn’t have the means of survival financially, that made it even more difficult, so you have the emotional and the financial considerations mixing together. She knew after a very short time that she wouldn’t be there forever, and it took a few years to cross the road, and still love him, but from across the street, to say, ‘I wish the best for you, but we don’t have to be in the same house.’”
“It’s an amazing triumph, she doesn’t kill herself with drink and drugs and all of that sad old downward spiral, but she is an upward trajectory of her life, her career and her spirit. So, it’s a wonderful human story.”