"I was really happy to have that and I was intimidated before he even showed up," Bassett admits.
That all changed once they started working together on a set outside Shreveport, La., where they recreated parts of Washington, D.C., including the White House.
"He was nothing but professional and kind and warm and fun, and you know, a treat," Bassett recalled.
The actress plays Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs alongside Freeman's Speaker of the House Trumbull, who assumes presidential power when the president and vice president are incapacitated after a terrorist attack on the White House.
"He's been in so many great roles and he works all the time, you know? Who am I going to be in a world with him? His right hand! And he was at my left. So it was great," Bassett said.
She added: "At the end, I couldn't help myself, I just grabbed him and said, 'I just had a ball, you know, I hope we do it again sometime.' I think he thought the same, so I was humbled by that."
While acknowledging that was a treat, Bassett called the "most salient aspect" of the project was "the opportunity to work with Antoine Fuqua.
"I appreciate the talent that he has and the worlds that he creates," said Bassett about Fuqua, who directed Denzel Washington to an Oscar in "Training Day."
She says she was impressed by how he translates pages of the script into each scene. It wasn't until the scenes were shot that she had any idea how they would turn out.
"It was in his head. Even the screenwriters, I was just with them the last couple of days, even they admitted that, you know, they wrote it, but still it was realized in a completely different way than they saw in their own heads. And they were talking to each other," the actress said.
The film also stars Aaron Eckhart as the president and Gerard Butler as a disgraced secret service agent trapped inside the White House during the brutal attack.
Fuqua takes a no-holds barred approach in its depiction of a terror attack on the nation's capital. Tourists are shot with machine guns, bombs go off at will, and the Washington monument is toppled. While graphically violent for most of the R-rated film's two hours, Bassett doesn't feel the film was gratuitous in its approach.
"It's about an attack, so no," Bassett said before revealing: "I even took my 78-year old mother in-law and she
John Carucci covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/jacarucci