“If He Were Here . . . I Would Strangle Him”
Vonetta Wallace and Angela Bassett
In Notorious Angela Bassett plays Vonetta Wallace who, for 24 years, played an unlikely role for a soft-spoken teacher with a masters’ degree.
Real life had cast her as the mother of the nation’s most famous and fierce gangsta rapper, “The Notorious B.I.G.”
A stern woman of quiet dignity, she looks like a lady who would tug bad boys by the ear and all the way to the principal’s office. But when her own son, first known as Christopher Wallace, was a teenager, she says she initially did not know of his drug dealing.
“I never saw that side of my son,” she said at a recent press conference. “My son was such a genuinely kind person that he hid all that from me.”
In his room the teen prepared cocaine for sale and slid plates of it under his bed to shield it from the eyes of this mother, as depicted in the biopic Notorious. When she discovers one of the dishes of white powder, she thinks that her son has slothfully kept disgustingly aged mashed potatoes under his bed. She throws them out.
She remembered that when he got home he went frantically through the garbage. “He had ketchup all over him,” she recalled. Yet she said it was not until viewing the movie that she realized exactly was had been at stake.
“If he were here today, as big as he is, I would strangle him. He was disrespecting my house.
“I am not saying that parents should call the police and the psychiatrist when they find something like this is going on . . . well, maybe the psychiatrist. But I would say love your children.”
Wallace and the woman who plays her in the movie sat side by side at the press conference. Bassett said, to prepare for the role, she studied Wallace’s mannerisms and expressions. “What’s interesting,” Bassett said, is to show the complexity in every human being.”
“She got my accent down pat,” said the Jamaican-born Wallace, who is not only complex, but tough. A survivor of two bouts of breast cancer, she heads her son’s estate and co-produced Notorious.
The movie provides her solace, she said. It shows the good side of Notorious B.I.G. as well as the difficult persona. “The son I knew was loving, generous, and kind,” she said. “I found out about the (rest) after his death.”