*While colleagues and friends of the late Whitney Houston were on hand Tuesday night for a screening of Lifetime’s new biopic about the singer, her family was nowhere to be found.
The premiere took place at the Paley Center for Media, located just minutes away from The Beverly Hilton hotel, where the 48-year-old Houston drowned in her guest room in February 2012. The official coroner’s report listed heart disease and cocaine as contributing factors in her death.
Relatives were invited to participate in the “Whitney” project from the start, explained Angela Bassett, the Oscar-nominated actress marking her feature-directing debut with the biopic, which debuts Jan. 17.
“And it was the family’s choice and decision, because of what they want to do and whatever their desires or their plans are, not to be involved in this one,” Bassett said. “But they didn’t have anything negative to say about it. You know, sometimes to be silent is the greatest gift.”
Bassett and Houston worked together on the 1994 big-screen drama “Waiting to Exhale,” and Bassett expressed fond memories of her co-star.
“To have had that experience of being around her,” noted Bassett, “all that came back to serve me in the making of this.”
Nevertheless, without the family’s blessing, the “Whitney” production was not allowed to use Houston’s original recordings. Bassett hired singer Deborah Cox, Houston’s one-time label mate, recording partner and long-time friend to handle the vocals.
Cox took the gig, even if it was destined to be a thankless one.
“I knew I would be judged,” Cox said, with a smile. “Everyone was going to come for me. Don’t. I come with love.”
As did actress Yaya DaCosta (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”), who said she took on the role of Houston concerned about just one critic: Houston herself.
“When we were on set, that’s all I thought about: `I don’t really care what any living person thinks. I want to make her proud,'” DaCosta recalled. “And that, for me, is all I needed to be O.K. with this project.”