On Saturday night, Britney Spears fans will be shown a new (and dramatized) side of the pop superstar in Britney Ever After, Lifetime’s made-for-TV movie documenting the rise of the “…Baby One More Time” icon. Natasha Bassett, the 24-year-old actress given the lofty task of playing Spears in the biopic (and hiding her thick Australian accent in the process), tells Billboard that she grew up a huge Spears fan — but now has “an even deeper amount of respect and admiration” for the pop icon.
“Once I read the script, I felt compelled to tell the story, because I found it to be an incredible showing of strength,” says Bassett, who has also appeared in Hail, Caesar! and the NBC show Camp. “It shines a really positive light on Britney and how she’s overcome challenges that she’s faced throughout her life. It shows how, not only is she one of the world’s greatest entertainers, she’s a mom to two gorgeous boys, she’s a record-setter in Vegas and just an incredible human being. I think it’s a feminist story, at its core.”
Bassett idolized Spears when she was growing up — “I used to perform catwalks in my bedroom to her songs and pretend to be her with a hairbrush in my hand as a microphone,” she admits — but didn’t know she was auditioning to star as the singer. When she auditioned for the project, she hadn’t been given a full script and she asked to read for a character named Jenny Jean. She had to be flagged down at the airport 45 minutes after the audition and nearly on her way back Down Under before she realized the opportunity that was being presented in Britney Ever After.
“I was thrilled once I found out what the movie was about, but it’s nerve-wracking at the same time,” she says. Bassett has avoided social media, especially with the release of trailers and clips from the film, but says, “I’ve received some really lovely messages from fans, which has been really reassuring.”
So what did Bassett learn about Spears over the course of filming? “There was so much,” she says. “What I did find really interesting about Britney is that she writes a lot of her own songs and creates the concepts for her music videos, which I never knew. For ‘…Baby One More Time,’ the director wanted to shoot it as a sort of animated video with Britney as a Power Rangers character. And Britney thought that was ridiculous and dismissed that idea. She was the one who came up with the idea to play a schoolgirl, which ended up being iconic.”
And, Bassett adds, those who think Spears doesn’t try hard at her job don’t understand the pain of extended choreography sequences. “We had a very insane dancing schedule leading up to the film and I have so much more respect for Britney,” she says. “I found out that she would do 10–12 hours nonstop a day. I don’t know how she does that.”