Angela Bassett Reveals Why She Didn’t Cast Bobbi Kristina In Whitney Biopic
A few weeks ago, troubled celebrity seed Bobbi Kristina lashed out at the recently confirmed Lifetime biopic being done on her mother, claiming that both she and Whitney both felt Bobbi should be the person to star in any film about her life. Needless to say, Bobbi’s proclamation was met with much backlash and now Angela Bassett, who is directing the biopic, is speaking out to set the record straight about everything from Bobby Brown’s involvement, Bobbi Kristina not being cast, whether or not she reached out to the Houston family and more.
Check out a few excerpts from her recent interview with Entertainment Weekly below:
Do you consider yourself having been close to Whitney after Exhale?
No, I don’t. I can’t. I can’t say that, but I think that I had an opportunity, of course, to appreciate and love her from afar and then to spend time with her in a working situation. She shined in a room but didn’t suck up the energy. Some people suck up all the air and it’s all about them. They mistake their presence for the event. But she didn’t do that.
She was there to work, to work hard, she was joyful, she laughed a lot, she played, she was easy to be around. You know, she was a delight.
As a director, what type of research are you doing to prepare for this type of movie? Are you going through her personal items, or speaking to her family for research?
No, not through her items. A lot of our research is from interviews, from interviews that she has given and we’ve crafted it within the framework of her meeting Bobby and taking that relationship about four or five years forward. And of course, I did read her mother’s book.
You’re making this movie for Lifetime. Do you think this movie will be received better on television than through theatrical release?
Well, it comes to you. It’ll come to your home, I think. The access. If you’re interested, it’s right there.
Mrs. Bassett then went on to reveal what it was like when she first met Bobby Brown, what she thinks of him, whether or not he’s involved in the film and much more. Peep page 2 to read what she had to say…
The film specifically focuses on Bobby and Whitney’s relationship, which might be the most controversial aspect of her life. Does that make it easier or harder for you?
Well, it was easy. I can’t say it was difficult.
You know, I reflect it back on the moment I first saw them together. It was when I was doing Exhale. We were all on set in the living room together and [Bobby] came to visit. I, like everyone else, had some preconceived idea … people just looked at a photograph or picture of them together and thought “They’re incongruous.” “They don’t go together.” “Why is she with him?” I think that was usually the question, not “Why is he with her?” They could imagine her with someone else who does something else, who carries himself [differently], who looks somehow different.
We didn’t see any commonality between them and we, having nothing to do with their lives, [shared] our opinions and perception. We didn’t do it with anyone else, very few people. So that’s enormous. But that moment I had, where he visited the set, he made a very strong impression on me.
A positive or negative impression?
Just positive. He wasn’t loud. He wasn’t over the top. He wasn’t a showboat. He was grounded. His energy felt grounded and serious and supportive and loving. Without trying.
Is that the Bobby we’ll see in the movie?
Yes, I hope so. Yes, that’s my desire.
Is Bobby involved in the film? Has he given it his okay?
No. Bobby is not involved in the film. Of course, we’re very sensitive to whatever the relationships might be or what we have heard or what we perceive his relationship between her family and him.
So we’re trying to be respectful.
Drugs were a part of their story, and that’s controversial in and of itself. How do you deal with something like that?
Right. Well, we know that drugs were a part of their story and that’s certainly an element of their story. We can’t tell their story without that. It’s involved, and I hope we can unpack it gently.
Finally, Angela went into detail about why she didn’t cast Bobbi Kristina to star in the film, what happened when she reached out to he Houston family, why she chose Yahya Dacosta to play Whitney and more. Peep the final page for the rest.
Have you been able to collaborate or work with the family at all with regards to the film?
No, they’re not participating. We reached out to them in the early days; of course we’re not going to do the movie and not say anything to them. You can if you’re using public domain, but that’s not our desire.
We paid our respects and let the conversation be had, just to get their okay. They certainly could have been not involved and against it.
In uplifting her memory to the highest standard possible, did you ever think about casting her daughter Bobbi Kristina as Whitney herself?
No, I did not think about that. I did not think about casting her. And probably for a number of reasons, you know. One being that she’s not an actress. I know she’s acted here and there. I know she’s been on their family’s reality show, but she’s not an actress and acting is a craft. It’s an attempt to illuminate the complexities of human behavior and life. And this is a very fast-paced schedule; we have just 21 days to tell this story. It’s more than just saying lines and turning the light on.
Right. You cast Yaya DaCosta as Whitney—and you went with a cast of newcomers for this film as opposed to more established actors. Why is that?
Because I want you to fall into the world of Whitney and Bobby.
And listen. 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.
Will you address her death in the film?
No. That’s one of the things I do appreciate about the story at least, with this first story about her. We’re not interested in dragging her life again through, you know, the muck. She had to play out her choices, and the consequences of them, in a very hot, glaring spotlight, but we’re not interested in dragging that through again.
Do you want your movie to be the definitive Whitney Houston biopic? Would it bother you if her family members produced their own movie?
Not one bit. This is going to be the trailer to the movie they’re going to make. How can this be definitive? Her life, her stardom, was so massive. Nothing that’s never been seen or done before, her talent was so anointed and so galvanizing, like nothing ever heard before. She was like no one ever known before. She deserves to have this movie, and another movie, and everything and anything else.
And there you have it. Sounds like Angela isn’t playing in games with her directorial debut. Do you agree with her reasoning for not casting Bobbi Kristina in the film?