Ten years ago, Angela Bassett turned down the role in “Monster’s Ball” that won Halle Berry the Best Actress Oscar. This fall, Berry was to have made her Broadway debut in a production of the Olivier-winning play “The Mountaintop” but child custody issues demanded she remain on the west coast. Bassett, a 1993 Oscar nominee for “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” is now set for the plum part of a maid who encounters Dr. Martin Luther King in his Memphis hotel room the night before he is assassinated in 1968.
Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction”) will portray the fallen leader. This marks Jackson’s return to the rialto two decades after he was an understudy in August Wilson‘s “The Piano Lesson.” Bassett’s only previous Broadway experience was in the 1988 production of Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.” And Kenny Leon, who is to direct this production, landed a Tony bid last season for his helming of Wilson’s “Fences.” Previews of “The Moutaintop” begin on Sept. 22 with opening night slated for Oct. 13.
Last year, this first play by American actress by Katori Hall pulled off an upset at the Olivier Awards, winning Best Play over two British works which had a leading six nominations each — “Jerusalem,” a dark comedy of class by Jez Butterworth and Lucy Prebble‘s “Enron,” a savage satire about that company’s implosion. David Harewood and Lorraine Burroughs (photo, above) played the roles in London.
In a statement confirming the casting of Bassett and Jackson, producers Jean Doumanian and Sonia Friedman said, “These two remarkable actors have excited audiences around the world for many years, and bringing them together in this extraordinary new play on Broadway promises to be a major highlight of the season.”