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Angela Bassett Reflects on Career, From Living in the Florida Projects to Starring in ‘Wakanda Forever,’ at Celebration of Black Cinema

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 05: Angela Bassett poses in the IMDb Exclusive Portrait Studio at The Critics Choice Association 5th Annual Celebration of Black Cinema & Television at Fairmont Century Plaza on December 05, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Rowe/Getty Images for IMDb)
Getty Images for IMDb

The Critics Choice Association’s fifth annual Celebration of Black Cinema and Television culminated in the evening’s most anticipated honor — the presentation of the Career Achievement Award to Oscar-nominated actor Angela Bassett, who recently starred in Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

“My representation of you on screen put me on a path as a little Black girl — a high school student that lived in the Jordan Park housing project in St. Petersburg, Fla. — that I only dreamed of because of you,” Bassett said in her acceptance speech, addressing a packed room of star-studded talent and cinema enthusiasts. “My dreams were not only fulfilled, but your stories have been immortalized — some of them for future generations to discover and enjoy.”

This year’s ceremony took place Dec. 5 at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel and was hosted by actor-comedian Bill Bellamy. The event serves to recognize Black performers and filmmakers who are making stellar contributions to the film and television industry.

“I literally was shooting last year at this time and seeing pictures of this event and thinking, ‘Oh how beautiful it would be to be able to get the chance to be here, to be honored, to have some of my cast here,'” Gina Prince-Bythewood, whose work on “The Woman King” earned her the Director Award for Film, told Variety on the red carpet.

“‘The Woman King’ was an experience of the best in show — we worked with the best director, the best writer and the most incredible ensemble of actors, and they all worked so hard to deliver a pitch-perfect project,” TriStar Pictures President Nicole Brown said on the carpet. “We were all craving to see women be strong and empowered, and this story has a timelessness but also a sense of urgency, and I think audiences have shown us how much they wanted to see it.”

“The Bear” star Ayo Edebiri also was given the special distinction of the Rising Star Award, presented by IMDbPro for her work on the FX series. Shortly after the series’ premiere earlier this year’ June premiere, Edebiri jumped into her next project: “Theater Camp,” a musical comedy co-starring Ben Platt, Molly Gordon, Noah Galvin, Amy Sedaris and more, which she delved into on the carpet.

“‘Theater Camp’ was really fun to film; I mean, it really felt like we were there,” Edebiri told Variety. “I didn’t have parents that would send me to a sleepaway camp or anything, so it was really fun getting to be there upstate, at a camp, hanging out with each other — it really did invoke that experience.”

In addition to the Black creatives honored in 15 categories, Michael B. Jordan received the Melvin Van Peebles Trailblazer Award in recognition of his seasoned career and upcoming directorial debut, “Creed III.” Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi also was presented with the Groundbreaker Award for wielding dual actor and creator credits on his Netflix special “Entergalactic.”

Berry Gordy, the 93-year-old founder of the Motown record label, received the Icon Award for his influence on the music of film and television over the decades. The famed record producer has helped launch international hits like the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and the Temptations’ “(You’re My) Dream Come True.” Billy Dee Williams, the actor who played Lando Calrissian in the original Star Wars trilogy, surprised Gordy onstage to present him with the honor.

Other talent in attendance included “Abbott Elementary” creator and star Quinta Brunson; Quincy Isaiah, who plays Magic Johnson in HBO’s “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty”; “Devotion” lead Jonathan Majors; “Nanny” writer-director Nikyatu Jusu; and the ensemble cast of ABC’s “The Wonder Years” revival.

One star unable to make it to the ceremony was actor Danielle Deadwyler, who was set to receive the Actress Award for Film for her performance as Mamie Till-Mobley in Chinonye Chukwu’s “Till.” Deadwyler is currently in New Orleans filming the upcoming feature “Carry On,” from director Jaume Collet-Serra.