February 14, 2018 12:00 PM

Between grueling hours and work schedules that can keep partners on opposite sides of the country, most Hollywood marriages aren’t built to last. But Angela Bassett and husband Courtney B. Vance have successfully kept theirs alive for two decades.

“I don’t keep count!” she tells PEOPLE’s Editor-in-Chief Jess Cagle in the latest episode of The Jess Cagle Interview (streaming now on People TV). “I hope that means I stay in the moment.”

Bassett and Vance with their kids Bronwyn and Slater at the Black Panther premiere in L.A. Jan. 29
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The Black Panther actress, 59, recalls meeting Vance, 57, in drama school — when he had a girlfriend.

“He had a beautiful, beautiful girlfriend at the time, who was also in drama school with us,” Bassett remembers. “So maybe about 14 years later, our paths crossed here in Los Angeles. And I was single, he was single. And I had such an appreciation for him over those years — of his consistency, how he treated other people, of what a supporter he is, what a connector of people and ideas he is, how passionate he is.”

RELATED VIDEO: Lupita Nyong’o, Chadwick Boseman and Janelle Monae Look Like Royalty at the ‘Black Panther’ Premiere

Bassett calls the American Crime Story star, with whom she shares 12-year-old twins Bronwyn and Slater, a “phenomenal person and actor” and “an amazing father” who supports her career.

“It’s not like I expect this, I expect that from you; Dinner on the table every day, or this, that and the other,” she says. “I have to go sometimes. I can’t be there sometimes, and he steps in there. He’s right there.”

  • For more on Angela Bassett, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday

The Golden Globe winner believes their dynamic began around their 1997 wedding, when she was 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,’ ” she recalls. “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.”

Black Panther is in theaters Friday.

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