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A love supreme: Angela Basset and Courtney B. Vance share the joys of their marriage and offer advice on creating a fulfilling relationship.

IF YOU WERE TO ASK ANGELA BASSET AND COURTNEY B. VANCE "What's love got to do with it?" they'd answer, with heartfelt enthusiasm, "Everything." In Friends: A Love Story (Kimani Press, February 2007), the celebrities describe their first date and their courtship, which laid the foundations of their marriage of almost a decade.

During the 1980s and later, when the two actors were navigating their individual careers, they first met at Yale Drama School and bumped into each other at house parties and social events in Los Angeles. Neither had an idea they'd ever develop a unique bond. And suddenly, their hearts met, so to speak. Each separately endured romantic missteps, family tragedies and personal insights before coming together as a couple and committed life partners.

When they finally married, Basset had just received acclaim for her dynamic portrayal of Tina Turner and Vance had just finished filming The Preacher's Wife.

Below, Vance and Basset discuss the collaboration on their first book, their 18-month-old twins, Slater Josiah and Bronwyn Golden, and the strength of their relationship. And in an excerpt from Friends: A Love Story, Basset recalls their first kiss.

Black Issues Book Review. Congratulations on the book and the additions to your family. How do you describe your new book?

Angela Basset: Well, it's an autobiographical love story. A story that discusses love of self, love of each other and love of the craft of acting ... (And the love of God, Courtney adds.) It's told in a "he says, she says" way.

BIBR: You've had a successful marriage for quite a few years now. Can you describe the process that you and Angela developed for negotiating projects you're both involved in. Which of you gets the last word when you can't decide?

Courtney B. Vance: Our relationship, first and foremost, is based in faith, therefore our goal is to respect and support each other. Now with children in our lives, they are our first priority when reviewing potential projects, and how it will affect them. Then we weigh each project on its own merit; and finally we both try never to be working on projects at the same time, projects that would keep us apart and out of town.

Angela has a Disney animated project she's working on, and after five years of flying back and forth between Los Angeles and New York doing Law & Order: Criminal Intent, I am very content, right now, managing these changes in our household, preparing for our book tour and enjoying my time home being "Daddy" Our marriage is strong because we negotiate with each other and make decisions jointly; this creates a nurturing environment where we can both flourish.

With this project, Angela and I remained strong and united in the telling of our story; in fact, the process actually brought us closer together.

BIBR: You both have busy schedules, do you have any time for reading?

C.B.V.: More than anything right now, we are focusing on preparing the household for these children to grow up in. Because we began our family late in life, our house is not geared toward "little feet" running around. So we have begun the process of re-orienting our house to accommodate these precious jewels! It is a wonderful but time-consuming process, and one that takes complete concentration.

But our years together have prepared us for the task! And oh, yes, what books are we reading right now? What else--children's and parenting books! Angela is reading the books, and I am surfing the Web, looking for good schools. You know the old adage, "Preparation precedes blessings!"

BIBR: Are there any plans to write another book, perhaps a children's book:

A.B.: We've have been asked about writing a children's book. And we've given it some thought. So yes, there's quite a possibility. I've actually thought that one could be based on a little ditty I sing to the kids. "We're sitting in a chair, sitting in a chair, looking out of the window, what's over there, where are we going.... ?" [Angela laughs]. It [the book project] definitely has to be about something that excites children's imaginations and stimulates their curiosities.


Gently, Sweetly, Concretely

One day, I was minding my business at home when the messenger from Rita's Flora arrived at the front door. There are times in your life when you get flowers and you know exactly who they're from. But once you reach a certain level as an actor you're always getting flowers. You never know who they're from until you read the card. Someone might have sent them for some little good deed you did or an appearance you made somewhere or anything. My manager at the time would send me flowers for the least little thing. He was a sweet flower sender. The messenger handed me a big bouquet of wildflowers--purple and green and yellow. Little-bitty buds--almost like weeds. Really cute.

"I wonder who these are from?"

There was a big card attached to them--not the little 2x2-inch card that all the flower shops have where the clerk writes in this nondescript handwriting whatever the customer dictates. But a bigger card--a 3x4- or 4x5-inch stationery note card. I opened up the envelope and there were two note cards in it with a name across the top: Courtney B. Vance. The cards were hand printed. His handwriting, obviously, because it was somewhat illegible-letters leaning to the left, to the right, straight up, close together, letter on top of a letter--that kind of stuff. Still, I could see that he had taken his time with it. I read what he had written.

I like you. Do you like me? Check one--yes, or no.

"Ahh ... "

It was really sweet. He was just layin' it out there. "I really like you and would like to spend time with you but I'm not in a rush. We don't need to rush this thing. In your time ... " I remember feeling all excited and getting butterflies, then getting really quiet. I knew this was monumental. This was a moment--a really big moment. I remember lying down on the couch. I thought about it.

Well, we had been having a good time together. Maybe we could move from a friendship to "well, let's try it this time." I thought about the first time we went out, when it was, "Oh, Lord, I hope he don't like me in that way, in a romantic way. Let's be friends. Let's just continue it how it is--as friends. There's nothing wrong with it. It's not broken so let's not fix it--fix it and break it."

Now here were these flowers and this letter where he was clearly professing his desire to be with me--to be my boyfriend, to develop another kind of relationship. It was sweet; it was chivalrous. I had just experienced a number of relationships that were not right--back to back to back in rapid succession.

Not the right person, not the right circumstances. Just wrong! I felt a little beat up emotionally. A part of me was thinking, Do I really want to go back in that ring again? Do I really want to roll the dice? Do I want to try my hand again? Is it just going to end up like all the others? Or could it possibly be different?

But by now I'd known Courtney for many, many years. I knew he and Ahren had broken up and had stayed broken up. I had admired his commitment to her for the many years they'd been together. When people go together for that long and they break up, you just know they're going to get back together. But it seemed like they hadn't been together in a long time. I knew he had dated other women; I'd heard mention of it through the grapevine. I also knew he was secure in himself. Here was someone who could care about the essence of me. Who could care for who I am now and who I can be.

I had to take to bed and lie down and compose myself. I knew I had to make a decision. They say love is an action--a choice. I had to make one quickly. Being raised right, I knew I had to respond and let him know I'd received the card and flowers and say thank-you. Then I'd have to make some kind of response to his overture, either that I was interested or I wasn't. I probably needed to figure that out and do that in my next conversation.

I didn't know that I wanted to put him off, though he was being really kind and patient. (He's been rushing me ever since!)

I thought about how at another time he probably would have been that guy where I would have said, "He's just so nice--too nice." You always want that passionate guy, the bad boy. But that type of man is not all he's cracked up to be. I had an appreciation of the "nice guy" at this point. I was interested and hungry and ready for that. I thought I deserved that, at least, as a given. I deserved someone who is kind and gracious and supportive and encouraging. That should be a certain thing--the first thing--not the last thing or a thing you're hoping for. That's what I deserved; that's what we all deserve.

I reflected on my girlfriends talking about different men and telling me, "He's so nice, he washed my car!"

"That ain't nice," I would tell them. "That shouldn't be a big deal! Men are supposed to wash cars."

Or "He opened the door for me." Please! That ain't nothin' special! People are supposed to be nice and not take you for granted--call when they say they're gonna call, show up when they said they will.

So after thinking about it, I called him.

"Hey ... "

"What's up?"

"I got your flowers. They're beautiful!"

For years I could remember the rest of the conversation. Funny, I can't anymore. I just know the relationship started there. Gently, sweetly, concretely.

At the end of that incredible whirlwind week, Courtney had to go home to Detroit to attend his mom's retirement party, and I had to leave for Milan, where I had been invited, all expenses paid, by designer Giorgio Armani to attend one of his fashion shows. The night before I left, Courtney came by my house under the guise of dropping off a tape. I think it was a tape on vocal technique, vocal warm-up or something like that. It might as well have been blank, as far as I was concerned. It was his excuse to come say goodbye. Before he left we were standing on my front steps. The big moon was out--a big ol' fat moon and a clear sky. Then he kissed me. I felt like I was a teenager. It was truly reminiscent of my first puppy-love kisses. I got pinpricks and chills up the back of my thighs and across my butt, up my neck, across my scalp--everywhere! There were these electrical impulses just coursing through me. So we just stood out there and kissed for a moment. Now, everyone can't kiss good. Kissing is an art! To some it seems to come easier than others. Courtney was a good kisser. He had good "pillow" lips.

From FRIENDS: A LOVE STORY [c] 2007 by Basset/Vance Productions, LLC with Hilary Beard. Reproduction with permission of the publisher, Harlequin Books S.A. All rights reserved.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Cox, Matthews & Associates
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2007
Previous Article:Home to Ghana.
Next Article:Creativity on fire: the Black Arts Movement took root in and gave meaning to the political dynamics of an era.

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