Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance Celebrate 26 Years of Marriage: From Classmates to Soulmates

Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance have a real-life romance that seems like a Hollywood fairy tale. The couple has been married for over a quarter of a century, parents to twins Slater Josiah Vance and Bronwyn Golden Vance for 17 years, and are continually proving that their decades-long partnership only gets stronger with time.

Angela told People in 2020, "Staying together so long, whether in the industry or not, I think the important thing is that you gotta marry the right person. Make sure you're both looking in the same direction, basically."

She added, "You're not clones of each other, but you have similar or closest similar belief systems and, you know, pleasant personalities. Because we all have strengths, strengths and weaknesses, and we want to support one another. But I think also recognizing that we are each individuals, we have our individual dreams and desires and hopes and ways of doing things."

Courtney B. Vance and Angela Bassett
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

While talking with People at the Critics Choice Awards in 2023, Courtney said their marriage was like a rock band that considered trying solo projects only to come back together in the end.

"Initially it was about, 'they made it,' and then 'what about my individual glory?'" he explained. "And 'I don't want to get so caught up in the band and talks about going our separate ways.' And then going, 'You know what? We're better together and stronger together.'"

They literally wrote the book on it!

For years, fans have been graced with the couple's united front as they appeared by each other's side on various red carpets, dominating the spotlight with their obvious love and respect for one another. Whether they're sharing a smooch at the Golden Globes Awards or trading quips during an interview at the Emmy Awards, the couple's love and timeless good looks shine through.

As the couple celebrates their 26th year of marriage, let's take a look at how their friendship turned into a romance.

The actors met as graduate students at the Yale School of Drama in the 1980s. Angela, 65, studied at Yale University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in African-American Studies in 1980. She went on to study acting at the Yale School of Drama and obtained her Master of Fine Arts in 1983. Courtney, 63, earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard University before attending Yale to receive his M.F.A. alongside his future wife. He graduated with his Master of Fine Arts in 1986.

It wasn't love at first for the couple; in a 2007 interview on Oprah Winfrey's eponymous talk show, Angela shared that Courtney had a girlfriend at the time, and it wasn't until years later that they would meet again when they were single.

She admitted that she thought he was "tall, lithe, dark, skinny and just alluring."

Courtney B. Vance and Angela Bassett
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Courtney quipped that he "[didn't] remember her at all" from their early drama school days.

"She was leaving as I was coming in," Courtney explained to Wendy Williams on her talk show in 2016. "She was helping me, showing me around, and she was with somebody at the time and I was with somebody at the time. We were friends and for 13 years we were on the August Wilson circuit, doing his plays."

But, as he said, they were with other people. Thankfully, fate ensured the couple would meet again.

"I didn't run into Courtney again until 1994," the What's Love Got to Do With It actress recalled. "I was out with some friends and he was too. It was like, 'Hey! Great to see you.'"

Still, it took two dates for the pair to really connect. Angela joked that their first date "wasn't memorable."

"He just seemed like a really, really nice guy, which translated to kind of boring. That was it," she told Oprah. "Wasn't gonna give him a second thought."

The 61st Street star said the pair's second date was to play golf, and that was when they really started to fall for each other. "We had a great time," he recalled. "It was a great date. And I said, 'I like her.' Something was happening."

According to Angela, their first kiss is what truly sealed the deal. "I got pinpricks and chills up the back of my thighs and across my butt, up my neck and across my scalp," she wrote in the couple's book, Friends: A Love Story.

Thankfully, it all worked out for the couple in the long run. After reuniting all those years later, they said their "I dos" on Oct. 12, 1997, just before Angela was set to start working on How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

"It was like, 'I'm trying to do this, and I'm also trying to be Stella. Okay, it's a lot going on here, and I need you to step in and help me out with this,' " Angela recalled in an interview with People. "He was like, 'What?' That's all you have to do, is tell him to step in, and he shows up for you. Not just for me, but for any of his friends, whoever he loves, or whatever mentee may reach out to him. He steps up and steps in for you."

Another nearly 10 years of marriage, Angela and Courtney welcomed twins Bronwyn and Slater Vance, who were born in 2006 via surrogate.

The couple has been vocal about their surrogacy experience, sharing their attempts to start a family through IVF, including undergoing seven years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance with Bronwyn Golden and Slater Josiah
Alexandra Wyman/WireImage

"It was difficult, it was challenging, it was not happening. Or, it would happen and then it would -- poof --  it would go away... I was devastated when it didn't happen," Angela shared. "I had to remain hopeful and resilient and say, 'OK, let's do it again.'"

A friend of hers explored surrogacy first, opening the couple up to the idea. "I had a dream about seven years ago that we were going to have twins. I didn't know how it was going to happen," Angela said, explaining that being present at the birth was an amazing experience. "Just standing there together, holding each other with the realization that this is the moment that we've been working toward, praying for.  And here he comes, here comes Slater. Here comes Bronwyn. He's cool, and she's 'whaaaa.' That's right, girl, that's the way you go into the world."

"I had a dream about seven years ago that we were going to have twins," Courtney said. "I didn't know how it was going to happen."

Having kids "continues to let me know that it's about her," Courtney continued. "When we first got married, her sister sat us down in her living room and told us, 'My husband comes first.' And so that stuck in my mind that, throughout all the problems that we go through in terms of having children, she's first. And I wanted her to know, it's not about the babies for me, it's about her. Because when the babies come, it just means we've got to be more clear in terms of what we're about, and the decisions that we have to make."

The couple decided to share their love story for Valentine's Day, publishing Friends: A Love Story, a joint memoir of their relationship in February 2007.

In it, they shared the many lessons they'd learned throughout their marriage at that point -- including how to balance two packed schedules and two ever-evolving and acclaimed careers.

"I don't think I have a great ego that just gobbles everything in sight," Angela told Oprah when asked how they handled the tricky business of sharing the spotlight. "I'm proud of the accolades that he receives. And that is something we had to navigate early on.

Courtney added, "The larger issue for me is that I had to acknowledge that she's first. I had to learn because I didn't know...I thought I was ready when we first got married, but through counsel I started to understand, once I allow in my mind for her to be first, all the other things -- about the business [and other decisions] -- I said, 'Well, wait a minute, we've got to decide what we want first.' And then, that calmed me down."

Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance
Jesse Grant/WireImage

After his dad died, "I had to go back and start to reclaim myself, and start to remember things, and then," Courtney recalled, "I had to kind of put my career on hold for a little bit and start to refocus on myself -- and consequently, get ready for her."

That train of thought established the basis of their decades-long marriage, during which the couple has rarely worked together on-camera.

"We're not going to be doing shows and movies together. We need to close the doors and figure out our marriage," Courtney added. "We had to make a commitment to each other that divorce is not an option and to take it off the table."

"He said that we would have to fight through it to get to the other end of it. It was really wonderful," Angela added.

Courtney doubled down on the attitude during an interview on Rachael Ray in 2007, recalling his time spent with a trainer who was also a marriage counselor. "So every day I was being counseled, and he asked me what it cost when she asked me -- if we were in a car -- 'Which way do we go?' to say, 'Which way do you want to go?' I want peace in my home," he said. "I want that smile every day. What I had to realize was that she's first and when the queen is happy, the land is happy."

It's evident how proud Courtney is of his wife -- the actor never misses an opportunity to show it. In 2008, when Angela earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Courtney and the twins were front and center to celebrate the honor alongside the Golden Globe winner.

Courtney B. Vance, Angela Bassett, Bronwyn Golden and Slater Josiah
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

And, of course, that road goes both ways. In 2013, Angela revealed that she turned down an opportunity to star opposite Cicely Tyson in A Trip to Bountiful on Broadway because Courtney was already doing Lucky Guy and, having just finished shooting the film Black Nativity, she wanted to take time to be with her family.

"We have twins with the nanny and his mother is 78, so I had to let that go," Angela explained to Wenn. "I came back to the New York stage two years ago and did The Mountaintop and the twins were 5 then, almost 6, so they could sort of get it. The timing was they weren't in first grade so I could bring them to New York for three weeks and they could stay over Thanksgiving and Christmas... I will probably return to the stage when he comes home from the stage or my twins get a little bit older."

"I want what I want, he wants what he wants and sometimes they're not the same," Angela said in a 2018 interview, "but we've learned how to negotiate to make each other happy and fulfill our dreams and desires. He makes me a better person. He lets me be me and do me. He is a great support person for anyone."

The couple has truly shown out as each others' support system throughout the years.

EXCLUSIVE: Courtney B. Vance Adorably Calls His Kids After Emmy Win Backstage With ET

At the 2016 Emmy Awards, Courtney took home the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his role as Johnnie Cochran in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. The winner gave his wife a special shout-out after thanking those who contributed to his success.

"And last but not least, to the woman that rocks my chain!" he cried out to the cheers of the audience. "Angela Evelyn Bassett, this one is for you, girl!"

Similarly, in 2019, the actor gave his wife a sweet shout-out on Instagram when she was given an honorary doctorate from Morehouse College, a historically Black college in Atlanta.

"Celebrating my boo @im.angelabassett this weekend as she receives an honorary doctorate from @morehouse1867" he captioned a photo with Angela, which was decorated with the words "true love" and a heart. "You gotta love this beautiful artwork created by our favorite daughter, Bronwyn Golden!"

Angela also received honorary doctorates from Yale in 2018 and Old Dominion University in 2022.

Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images

When it comes to their kids, the couple has established their roles with regard to disciplining them.

"He is usually pretty calm but he is consistent," Angela explained during a 2021 appearance on The Late Late Show With James Corden. "For instance, right now he's 2,500 miles or so away in Chicago and he can still get them to hop to it."

The mother of two admitted she has a softer approach, saying, "Meanwhile, I'm 25 feet away and I either have to guilt trip them or pull things away or just leave the room. Just throw my hands up and go to my own corner and try to think of some other way to get them to do what they know they need to do."

Angela quipped that she's the "good cop" of the pair, joking, "I tell [the kids], 'I am your good time, so you don't wanna mess with me.' "

Although the two actors continued to juggle parenthood and busy careers over the course of their relationship, they made sure not to lose sight of their priorities.

"Our focus is on our children and what we need to do as a family. Careers and things follow that," Courtney told Us Weekly in April 2019. The Law & Order: Criminal Intent alum also shed some light on the secret to his long-lasting union.

"It's, 'Yes, dear. How can I help? What do you need me to do?'" he quipped at the time.

Slater Vance, Angela Bassett, Bronwyn Vance and Courtney B. Vance
David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

In May 2021, the couple announced that their company, Bassett Vance Productions, would team up with MTV for a limited-series drama based on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre to commemorate its centenary.

The untitled drama will be written by playwright Nathan Alan Davis and depict events surrounding the two days when white residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma, attacked and destroyed the prosperous Greenwood District, which was known as Black Wall Street at the time, and left hundreds of Black Americans dead and thousands homeless or displaced.

"Angela and I have always had a deep appreciation for history, especially when it comes to stories that are rooted in the Black community. We look forward to working on this series with MTV Entertainment Studios that will explore an important slice of American history as we look to reflect on events that changed the lives of countless Black families in Tulsa, Oklahoma one hundred years ago," Courtney said in a statement.

"We are excited to work with Nathan because his vision directly aligns with the story that Angela and I want to tell," he continued. "Although the series will revisit the Black pain and tragedy that took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, it will also importantly introduce to many the stories of the extraordinary, entrepreneurial people who built Black Wall Street and all that this  community accomplished."

This is the first project from the acting legends' Bassett Vance Productions as part of the deal made with MTV Entertainment Studios in 2020. And after having served as a writer for Facebook Watch's Sorry for Your Loss, this marks Nathan's first run as a show creator.

Courtney B. Vance Says ‘61st Street’ Shows How 'Truly Broken' Our System Still Is (Exclusive)

While the 99th anniversary of the incident, which coincided with the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, saw announcements of several new projects, the HBO series Watchmen and Lovecraft Country were among the first modern programs to depict what happened in 1921.

Courtney, who appeared on the latter HBO drama, told ET ahead of its 2020 premiere that it's "wonderful that we're beginning to talk about it."

"People don't know about the Tulsa Race [Massacre]. People don't know about all these incidents. Where would they find out? We go through high school, we go through grade school and it's not taught. It's glossed over and that's very painful for all of us," the actor continued, noting that "we're all traumatized and harmed by the whitewash. History is told by the winners and nobody really wants to be blamed for anything that has happened and [it's like] 'It just happened and that's just the way it was and it's not our fault, so we're just not going to talk about it.' And it needs to be talked about. And it needs to be explored."

In 2022, the couple celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with a lavish, star-studded soirée. The power couple ushered in their major milestone surrounded by their loved ones and gave fans a look into the celebrations with a video posted to their Instagram accounts.

"25 years... When we first got married, we couldn't wait to say we made it to 10 years! Now look at how far we've come!" the caption for the video post read.

"As Frankie says, 'Joy and pain are like sunshine and rain...' Whew! He sure was right! We've had ups, we've had downs; we gained two amazing children; but lost cherished family members and friends..." the caption continued. "We've had successes, we've had failures; we've had spectacular wins, we've had devastating losses... But through it all there's been one, beautiful constant: We've always had each other!"

The couple's caption ended on a sweet note, sharing their gratitude: "Thank you, God for each and everyone one of these 25 years! We can't wait to do 25 more! 10/12/1997🔒❤️."

The duo's emotional video gave a sneak peek inside their milestone anniversary party held on Oct. 1, 2022. The event featured a few familiar faces -- including Angela's 9-1-1 co-star and close friend, Aisha Hinds. At one point, Angela and Courtney watched a sweet video of their children before the twins gave a speech to their parents.

Angela and Courtney then took the mic to share their appreciation with those gathered to celebrate them before Courtney gave the cue for their band to kick off the dancing.

Friends and peers such as Kerry Washington, Monique Coleman, Bresha Webb and Tracie Thomas sent their love to the couple from the post's comment section.

"What a gift you both are to us all! Happy Anniversary! ❤️❤️❤️" Tracie commented as Monique sent a similar sentiment, writing, "Here’s to the next 25 🥳 Love you both 🫶🏾"

Courtney B. Vance and Angela Bassett
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

In January 2023, Angela gushed to ET about having her No. 1 cheerleader by her side as she collected trophies for reprising her role as Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Speaking to ET backstage at the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards, Angela opened up about having her husband's support during awards season.

"Aw, it's wonderful," Angela, who took home the award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance, said. "We all need one. We all deserve one."

Courtney also spoke to ET about his wife's "satisfying" Golden Globe win -- a moment her proud hubby captured for himself on his cell phone, in a now-viral and adorable moment.

"It was 30 years since she -- so, it was a little nerve-wracking, but ultimately satisfying," Courtney said of Angela's first Golden Globe win since 1994. "I mean, ultimately, we just, we work. And we're grateful to have been working all this time. She is a force. There's only a few folks like her."

While it's been great to take home trophies, Courtney said he tells his wife not to "get caught up" in the hardware.

"We do us," he said of the advice he gives the fellow thespian. "People eventually come around to you if you just stay who you are, where you are."

Two months later, the couple was joined by their twins, Bronwyn and Slater, at the 95th annual Academy Awards, where Angela was nominated for her supporting role playing Queen Ramonda in Wakanda Forever.

Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance Say 'Black Panther' Nomination Fills Their Kids With 'Pride'

"I'm feeling pretty good," Angela told ET of being joined by her husband and their children, who matched their parents on the red carpet.

"It was up to me. She said it was my day. And I thought she looked stunning in it," Angela said of Bronwyn, who rocked a purple gown, just like her mother's custom purple gown by Moschino. "And she's my little princess."

Slater Vance, Bronwyn Vance, Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance
Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

While Angela said she wasn't nervous about the awards show, she was hoping to take home a win, something her children said is "long overdue."

"I just I think it's long overdue and I really want to see her be honored the way that I know she should be," Slater shared. "And so this will mean a lot to me, and I know it'll mean even more to her, so, I'm waiting and I'm ready for it."

Courtney said he would be ready with his camera to catch it all too, telling ET, "You already know. you already know it."

See more on the couple's long-standing marriage ahead.


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Angela Bassett Celebrates 25th Anniversary with Courtney B. Vance 

Angela Bassett to Receive Honorary Oscar at Governors Awards

Angela Bassett on Celebrating Her Oscars Moment With Her Family

Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance Bring Their Kids to 'Black Panther' Premiere (Exclusive)