Angela Bassett has taken a brief pause in her acting career steps behind the camera to direct biopic ‘Whitney’ a movie that airs Saturday (Jan. 17) at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.
Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mother publicly spoke out the film was being made against the family’s objections. “No one connected with this movie knew Whitney or anything about her relationship with Bobby,” she said. “We are exhausted by the continuing misinformation and comments offered by people who did not know her. Please please let her rest.”
“We’re looking at a five-year moment in time,” Bassett says — the late ’80s and early ’90s, before things spun way out of control.
Houston and Brown finally divorced in 2006 and Houston died Feb. 11, 2012, at the age of 48.
Even as Houston was achieving professional success no one can imagine, even when the country saw her as America’s Sweetheart, a golden voice inside a calm, beautiful, poised and elegant woman, there was trouble in paradise.
There were drugs. Lots of drugs, Houston later admitted. In the film, she’s having fun with cocaine back when Bobby was still saying no.
Their relationship eventually slid into mistrust and physical abuse, on both sides. Houston’s short run on Bobby’s reality TV show at times portrayed her as snappish and impatient, with a mouth like a sailor.
It was those small personal moments — some surprising and many charming — with which Bassett says she tried to fill out the picture.
“Whitney” isn’t based on any one source, and it wasn’t made with the cooperation of any key people in Houston’s life. Nor does it use Houston’s own voice, though it features four of her songs: “The Greatest Love of All,” “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” “I’m Every Woman” and “I Will Always Love You.”
While Houston is played by Yaya DaCosta, the songs are sung by Deborah Cox. Cox also sings bits of a few other songs, mostly gospel.
Bassett says her goal with the movie was to “play it down the middle, just try to tell the story as factually as we could.”
Bassett says she also drew extensively on the autobiography of Clive Davis, the music mogul who signed Houston and set much of her musical direction.
Bassett is well known herself for playing Tina Turner, another internationally famous singer who had serious issues in her marriage.
“What you need to remember about Whitney is that no one had the success she did. We make that point right at the beginning. In four years she had seven straight No. 1 hits and sold 30 million albums. That’s more than the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. In four years. And she was 23 years old. How do you deal with that? How does anyone deal with that?
“I hope we’ve shown that we need to have compassion for the journey she and Bobby were on — and the choices they made.”