Had you told Natasha Bassett that she would one day portray Britney Spears in a made-for-TV movie, “I would have told you you were crazy,” says the Australian actress in an interview with ET Canada, revealing she “grew up idolizing” the singer.
“I had a hairbrush as a microphone, singing in the mirror,” she says of her fandom as a youngster, “so I think I had a bit of practice.”
Starring as Spears in the upcoming Lifetime biopic Britney Ever After, jokes the 23-year-old, forced her to “up the ante a bit for the performances. My hairbrush microphone didn’t quite make the cut once I had to perform in a stadium for the movie, but it certainly helped having been a fan of hers for so many years.”
WATCH BELOW: More On Britney Spears’ Lifetime Movie
The two-hour movie traces Spears’ meteoric rise, her public meltdown and her spectacular comeback, and Bassett says one of her favourite parts of working on the Vancouver-shot movie was the opportunity to perform as Spears.
“It was exhilarating,” says Bassett. “I really loved performing I Can’t Get No Satisfaction because The Rolling Stones are my all-time favourite band, so that was a lot of fun. But what really attracted me to doing the film is that this movie is about who Britney is as a person and not just the performer. We’ve seen all those performances. We know what happens, but this is what happens behind the scenes. This is what happens after the performance ends.”
Portraying Spears also encompassed nailing the singer’s mannerisms and Louisiana accent, which Bassett says required her to immerse herself in all things Britney.
“The minute I found out I’d be playing Britney I started talking in that accent right away,” she reveals. “I drove my friends and family crazy for a week before I had to head up to Vancouver to shoot. I only had a little over a week to prepare, so I read every book that exists on Britney, I watched every interview and documentary available and had that playing on my phone in my headphones on the set whenever I wasn’t rehearsing or filming.”
She adds: “I actually stayed in accent for the entire shoot. I think some of the crew still don’t even know I’m from Australia.”
Bassett says she saw Spears perform live, but is glad that didn’t happen until after she finished work on Britney Ever After.
“I saw her in Vegas the weekend after we finished filming,” she says. “I was blown away. I was actually quite relieved I hadn’t seen her performance before doing the movie because I think I would have been too intimidated to accept the role, because she is absolutely phenomenal.”
The film isn’t all singing and dancing, and delves into Spears’ dark periods such as her very public head-shaving meltdown, which Bassett admits was tough but necessary.
“It wasn’t exactly fun, but it was really important to me that we portray this in a truthful manner,” she says. “These were very pivotal moments in her life, that played out very publicly, and as I played her, I tried to bring to life the emotions that led to those moments. It wasn’t easy, but she’s overcome everything so beautifully and is no stronger as a result of what she went through, and I think the film really shines the light on her showing of strength.”
Another part of the production that Bassett didn’t find to be a lot of fun was recreating Spears’ 2001 VMAs performance of I’m A Slave 4 U — featuring a massive python.
“The worst thing was having to hold the python,” Bassett admits. “That was horrible. I kept seeing it in the script, this snake cameo, and I think I compartmentalized it in my mind and I was in denial that it would ever happen. But it happened and it was horrible!”
At the end of the day, Bassett explains, “for me, I think this movie is a feminist movie at its core. And one thing that has really inspired me about Britney is I’ve become inspired to be more honest and strong in the decisions I make in my life after playing her.”
Britney Ever After airs Saturday, Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime Canada.