The power of sisterhood is what helped, Coretta Scott King and Dr. Betty Shabazz, wives of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, persevere after their husbands’ tragic assassinations. Sisterhood is also what made filming the Lifetime Television film, “Betty & Coretta,” a memorable experience for Mary J. Blige (Betty) and Angela Bassett (Coretta).
Lifetime held a red carpet release party in New York City at Tribeca Cinemas to celebrate the premiere of the film, airing Monday.
Mary, who also served as a co-executive producer on the film, shared with S2S how Angela helped her get through shooting some tough scenes.
“There was this scene I couldn’t get right,” she recalled. “We were in class and I was introducing her to the students and I was saying my script and I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. At lunchtime [Angela] came and helped me with it. I still couldn’t do it right after that, but I did it later on. I’ve been a fan of hers forever and love her more now. She is exactly what I wanted her to be.”
That’s not to suggest that Angela, who previously played Betty in the film Malcolm X, was serving as Mary’s coach. The Oscar-winner made it a point to give Mary the space to interpret the character in her own way while remaining supportive.
“It’s about being in the moment and reacting to another being. It’s not about some movie I did years ago,” Angela said. “I didn’t think giving advice would be helpful and I was not attempting to be intimidating in any way. I only wanted to be supportive. I love and respect Mary.”
Both Mary and Angela are just as passionate about the women they portrayed. Mary noted that she saw some of her own life struggles parallel the journey of Dr. Betty Shabazz. “I drew from my own hard life experiences. When you’re trying to prosper, things will continue to pull you back but you just keep your head up.”
During President Barack Obama’s inauguration, Angela was able to let the King family know just how much Coretta means to her. “I ran into Martin the third and they saw the movie. I was able to express to him how much we respect and revere the sacrifices his entire family has made and how amazing his mother is,” she said. “Although it’s impossible to tell any fullness of their magnificent lives, we approached it with such reverence and love.”
See photos from the premiere party below.