Angela Bassett struck up a friendship with Whitney Houtson back in 1995 when they shot Waiting to Exhale. Looking to make her directorial debut, the 55-year-old actress chose to make a project very close to her heart. She will be directing the biopic Whitney Houston for Lifetime.
She talked to Entertainment Weekly about her personal choice. Bassett said, “I obviously had worked with Whitney and, you know, just fell in love with her as the rest of the world did. And when this opportunity was brought my way, it really was something I couldn’t say no to. I felt that if I said no and let it pass, I could imagine having a great deal of regret, you know?”
The What’s Love Got to Do With It star knew she wanted a film she could emotionally attach to. She continued, “I had been looking for, hoping for, if I were to direct, a story that I felt deeply passionate about. One that I could stay up all night just thinking about, caring for and nurturing. I’ve had opportunities in the past, but nothing that just grabbed me like this did.”
The first-time director chose Yaya DaCosta, from Season 2 of America’s Next Top Model, to star as Houston. Bassett explained why she went with a less-established actress.
“I want you to fall into the world of Whitney and Bobby [Brown]. And I don’t want to stop you at the gate with maybe the image of something familiar, someone you’ve seen from something else,” she said. “You’ve already got your perception of them as an actor and person, and now you’ve got to put that to the side and squint your eyes and imagine this is Whitney and Bobby, you know what I mean?”
She also shared the difficulty in casting such iconic roles.
“Let me tell you something. We sat in the casting process and it is no easy feat for an actor to come into a room, bare their soul, to open themselves up to these words, this process, and these people. It’s not like, Oh my gosh, I have six good choices for Bobby. No, you don’t, you have two. Searching for weeks and only two rise to the top. They had different qualities that are like Bobby. You’ve gotta be like, which way do you want to go? And the same with Whitney. There are maybe one and then another. But Yaya was far and above the only choice, you know,” Bassett said.
The biopic is slated to air in 2015. Houston died on Feb. 11, 2012.