“When I auditioned for the part, I didn’t actually know the movie was about Britney Spears,” Bassett, 24, tells PEOPLE. “I hadn’t been given a full script and was told the character’s name was Jenny Jean. Because of the name, I thought it was probably set in the 1950s.”
But even without all the details, “I felt really compelled to tell this story because I found it to be one of incredible strength,” she says. “I was offered the role a few days later with the side note that it was, in fact, about Britney Spears.”
Britney Ever After, which centers on Spears’ love life, premieres Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime. Here are five things to know about the project’s star:
1. Her love – and respect – for Spears runs deep.
Born in Sydney, “I grew up idolizing Britney,” says Bassett. “She was a big part of my tween era. I would practice catwalks in my room to her songs and sing her songs into my hairbrush, so it was really intimidating to play her. I just want to do her justice.”
“There’s a fearlessness to her that I really admire,” Basset continues of Spears. “Even though she’s a huge superstar, she’s also a loving mother that goes through the same struggles that we all go through. It’s just that she has this added pressure of paparazzi and being in the public eye and scrutinized for everything she does, wears, and says. She’s under a microscope.”
2. She doesn’t share Spears’ dance background.
Playing one of the world’s best entertainers was very nerve wracking because “I’d never really danced before,” says Bassett. “But the film is really about what happens when those performances end. That’s what attracted me to this film. It shows what Britney is like as a person.”
3. Her first role was a big one!
I was very shy as a kid and didn’t start acting until I was 13,”she says. “The first play I did was Romeo & Juliet.”
“To announce the cast list, they had us all sit in a circle and let us know who had been cast and in what role,” she continues. “I was sitting there praying, ‘Please! I just want to be in the play! I’ll be a tree! I’ll be a man! I don’t care. I just want to be in the play.’ They read everyone’s name but mine and I thought, ‘Yikes! This is humiliating. I haven’t been cast. Should I just walk out now?’ I was really upset. But then they finally said my name and ‘Juliet!’ ”
4. She’s also a writer.
“I’m currently writing a novel. It’s a noir thriller set in the ’50s and the main girl is from Mississippi, which is actually where Britney was born,” says Bassett, who also has written a short film. “But that’s just a coincidence. I’ve been working on this novel for about a year. But maybe that’s why I thought [the Lifetime movie] was set in the ’50s at first!”
5. Like Spears, she promotes girl power.
“I’m actually a director,” she says. “So being able to work with a female-driven team on [Britney] was inspiring. I learned a lot from the experience and I hope people enjoy it.”
Britney Ever After premieres Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime.