In an interview with ETonline.com, Bassett opens up about the "beautiful sign" she received from Whitney, indicating that she could move forward with the movie, and why -- despite popular theory -- she believes it was the singer that got Bobby Brown hooked on drugs.
ETonline: When you were doing research for Whitney, did you try reaching out to the family to help tell the story?
Angela Bassett: We had reached out to the Houston family -- to the woman who's still her mama -- to say this movie is going to be made. That was before my time, but they reached out to the estate and to her and they said, from what I understand, "We don't want to be involved because we have our own intentions." Whether it's a feature they've got in the works or in their minds, that's theirs to do. The family dynamics are very complicated, whether it's the Houstons, Bobby, Bobbi Kristina. You hear, do they get along? And Bobby left the funeral -- he kissed the casket and left the funeral and moved from this seat to that. But you know what? I wanna be neutral and fair, so lemme see: The mama done wrote some books, Clive (Davis) wrote a book, Bobby had an autobiography. (So I was like,) "Y'all can talk to me through this. I don't wanna alienate anybody."
According to the film, Whitney was involved with drugs before Bobby, who was always blamed for her drug habit. How did you determine she influenced Bobby's drug use?
Because of the reading that I did and the interviews that I saw. There was a very telling interview [with Whitney's brother]. I mean, I always wondered, "How did that begin?" From what I read and from people that I talked to that maybe knew him at the time, they said, "Drinking -- drinking was Bobby's thing." It was beer or vodka or whatever. But drinking seemed to be his thing, and there was an interview that I saw where the son, [Whitney's] brother, sat next to their mother and admitted it -- [the brother] was the one that introduced her to [drugs]. Now that's a hard thing, but I don't think I would [admit that] next to my mother. I mean, it would be very difficult to do that. I have to believe that there's some truth in that, because why would you break your mother's heart?
Skeptics argue that you can't make a biopic about somebody you don't really know. What do you say to naysayers questioning the accuracy of this biopic?
Listen, I live with my husband and don't know everything about him and his every private thought! How can you know everything about anybody? Nobody knows everything about anybody. Some folks don't even know their own mind! Nobody knows everything about anyone except that person and the God they serve. But, I know some of the struggles and pitfalls and grace of being in the public eye. I know a little something about being a black woman in entertainment, a black woman in America, a woman in a love affair. I know a little something about being a mother and a daughter. I know a little something about making a movie. And, I know a little something about trying to find the good and praise it. I know enough little somethings! [Laughs]
What do you want the takeaway of Whitney to be? What can we learn from her?
That she lived her life; she loved deeply and she forgave quickly. And she made some bad steps. We all do.
What would Whitney think of the film?
I hope she would be pleased. I certainly felt her presence every day in the making of it. As I'm driving to work, trying to make it to that production office, I've got the radio on and her song comes on, and so, on this one particular day, I'm rolling down 134 and a big bus passes me. Her song is playing, and I'm getting off the exit at Laurel Canyon. I look to my left as her song is playing and there's -- on the back of a bus -- a huge initial: W.H. The initials are painted in purple. I had discovered purple was her favorite color and I was like, "I am soooo glad! Because girrrrl, you done break me down and built me up. You let me know! You and the Lord [let me know] that it's all right up there with you." And I'm like, "OK. Whatever comes, I'm ready. Let's do it. I got you." It was a beautiful sign.
Whitney premieres Saturday, Jan. 18, on Lifetime.