By Howard Pousner
Atlanta director Kenny Leon goes way back with Angela Bassett, who, it was announced late Tuesday, will play the female lead opposite Samuel L. Jackson in “The Mountaintop,” the Leon-helmed Broadway play about the imagined last night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.
The two became ninth grade friends in an Outward Bound program for disadvantaged kids with college potential in St. Petersburg, Fla. Leon went on to study political science at Clark Atlanta University, while Bassett attended Yale — initially in biology, her director recounted.
Bassett replaces Halle Berry, who dropped out of the role of Camae, a hotel maid/angel, because of family issues. Memphis playwright Katori Hall’s Olivier-winning “Mountaintop” begins previews Sept. 22 and opens Oct. 13 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200).
“These two remarkable actors have excited audiences around the world for many years,” producers Jean Doumanian and Sonia Friedman said in a statement, “and bringing them together in this extraordinary new play on Broadway promises to be a major highlight of the season.”
Bassett, 52, is an Academy Award nominee who played Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and is currently appearing in “Green Lantern.”