Angela Bassett on Her Silent Health Risk and Being a ‘Mom’ to Lena Waithe

Angela Bassett. Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images For Netflix

Three things that are true about Angela Bassett: (1) She can set a car on fire and look good doing so; (2) American Horror Story: Coven was magnificent simply because of her presence; and (3) despite what fully functioning eyes may tell you, she does not age in reverse. I’m aware of the last because of her most recent role yet: spokesperson for a health campaign that targets heart disease and diabetes. Bassett joined For Your Sweet Heart because of her genetic predisposition to the two conditions. While promoting the campaign, she caught up with the Cut to discuss health, her recent stint on Master of None, and what she’d like to be known for.

You’re Angela Bassett. There’s nothing that you haven’t done exceedingly well. What would you like to be known for the most?
I want to be known for being a wonderful mother to my children. And also someone who is passionate about her gift, about acting, and about her community. I’m sorry, but it can’t just be one thing!

Fair enough. Speaking of acting and community, you recently made an appearance on Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, playing mother to Lena Waithe’s character. Lena said she didn’t think you’d ever agree to the role. What made you say yes?
I was a fan of the show during the first season. The voice is so fresh, hysterical, and touching. I loved what they dealt with in the situations they found themselves in — I found it to be very familiar. When they approached me, they didn’t think it was going to happen because it was a such a big ask, but I just was thrilled that my schedule was free. I’m always looking for opportunities to say something. It was an important episode in terms of young people who are expressing themselves and their sexuality and their acceptance within family, community, or whatever the case may be. I was proud to be able to be a part of that dialogue and express it through art. [Lena and I] didn’t know each other before, but now I’m her mama. I mean her co-mama. I mean her second-in-line mama. All props to her actual mama, because she is a beautiful young lady. The woman that raised her has got to be stunning in her own right. I’m getting chills now, I love her so. It’s a wonderful friendship that emerged from that.

The reason we’re talking today is because you’ve teamed up with the diabetes- and heart-disease-awareness campaign, For Your Sweet Heart. Why was it important for you to get involved with them?
My mother had type 2 diabetes and she died of heart disease. And her brother, my uncle, also has the condition. Unfortunately, it’s very much a family matter. I got involved [with the campaign] at the top of the year after they approached me.

Considering your close proximity to diabetes and heart disease, have you made any changes in your life to protect your health?
I stay active, and I also make sure that I watch sugar, processed foods, things like that from my diet. About five years ago I had my yearly physical, and my doctor helped me lower my risk for heart disease because I am genetically predisposed to it.

You certainly appear very healthy.
I’m feeling really good.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Angela Bassett on Her Health Risk and Joining Master of None