FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Aug. 20, 2021, Los Angeles, CA – The American Film Institute (AFI) announced today it will confer Doctorate of Fine Arts degrees honoris causa upon Emmy® and Tony Award® winner Lily Tomlin and Academy Award®- and Emmy®-nominated actress Angela Bassett. Tomlin will be recognized for her contributions to the art of the moving image during the AFI Conservatory’s commencement ceremony celebrating the Class of 2020 on Saturday, August 21, 2021. Bassett will be honored during the Class of 2021 commencement ceremony on Saturday, October 9, 2021.

“Lily Tomlin and Angela Bassett are titanic artistic voices in a world that needs them now more than ever,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO.  “Beyond their undeniable talents – which are vast and varied – they have broken barriers, advanced our culture and inspired a new generation to follow in their footsteps. We are honored to celebrate them at the AFI Commencement with the storytellers of tomorrow.”

Tomlin and Bassett join an esteemed group of distinguished past recipients, including Robert Altman, Maya Angelou, Saul Bass, Kathryn Bigelow, Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Anne V. Coates, Clint Eastwood, Roger Ebert, Nora Ephron, Jodie Foster, Lesli Linka Glatter, James Earl Jones, Lawrence Kasdan, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Angela Lansbury, Spike Lee, David Lynch, Helen Mirren, Rita Moreno, Paul Schrader, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Towne, Cicely Tyson, Haskell Wexler and John Williams.


About Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin, one of America’s foremost comediennes, actresses and activists, continues to venture across an ever-widening range of media, starring in television, theater, film and much more. Throughout her extraordinary career, Tomlin has received numerous awards, including eight Emmy® Awards, two Tony Awards®, two Peabody Awards and a Grammy® Award.

In 1977, Tomlin made history by becoming the first woman to appear solo in a Broadway show in “Appearing Nitely,” for which she won a Tony Award®. Her next Broadway show was the critically acclaimed one-woman play “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” for which she took home an Outer Critics Circle Award.

Tomlin made her film debut in Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE, earning a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award® nomination. Her other credits include notable films such as 9 TO 5, ALL OF ME, FLIRTING WITH DISASTER, TEA WITH MUSSOLINI, I HEART HUCKABEES and A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. In 2015, Tomlin starred in the comedy-drama GRANDMA, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.

Tomlin’s television work ranges from guest-starring on celebrated television shows like SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, THE X-FILES, WILL & GRACE and DAMAGES, to joining THE WEST WING in a role that earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Actress in a Drama Series. Tomlin currently co-stars with Jane Fonda in the series GRACE AND FRANKIE, for which she has been nominated for four Emmys®, a Golden Globe and several SAG Awards.

In 2003, she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and, in 2014, she was the recipient of the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, DC. Most recently, Tomlin has been honored with the Career Achievement Award from the Television Critics Association and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.


About Angela Bassett

Captivating audiences with emotionally tinged performances has been the signature of Angela Bassett. Her talent and abilities as an actress, director and executive producer in both television and film have garnered accolades and acclaim from peers and fans, proving her to be one of the industry’s premier storytellers.

Bassett currently stars in and serves as executive producer on the network’s hit procedural drama, 9-1-1. For her portrayal of Athena Grant on the series, she was recently nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series at the 2021 NAACP Image Awards. Last year, she was awarded the NAACP Image Award in the same category and also was nominated for Entertainer of the Year. Earlier this year, at the inaugural Critics Choice Super Awards, Angela was named Best Actress in an Action Series.

Since 2019, she has received her fifth, sixth and seventh career Emmy® Award nominations, including two in the category of Outstanding Narrator for her work on the documentaries THE FLOOD (2019) and THE IMAGINEERING STORY (2020), and a nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for A BLACK LADY SKETCH SHOW (2020). Bassett garnered critical acclaim, a Golden Globe Award and a nomination for the Best Actress Academy Award® for her spectacular portrayal of legendary singer Tina Turner in the feature film WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT. Recently, she co-starred in the blockbuster films BLACK PANTHER and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT. This past summer, she starred in the action-adventure film GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE.


About the American Film Institute (AFI)

The American Film Institute (AFI) is a nonprofit organization with a mandate to champion the moving image as an art form. Established in 1967, AFI launched the first comprehensive history of American film and sparked the movement for film preservation in the United States. In 1969, AFI opened the doors of the AFI Conservatory, a graduate-level program to train narrative filmmakers. AFI’s enduring traditions include the AFI Life Achievement Award, which honors the masters for work that has stood the test of time; AFI AWARDS, which celebrates the creative ensembles of the most outstanding screen stories of the year; and scholarly efforts such as the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and the AFI Archive that preserve film history for future generations. AFI exhibition programs include AFI FESTAFI DOCS and year-round exhibition at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Maryland. Other pioneering programs include workshops aimed at increasing diversity in the storytelling community, including the AFI Directing Workshop for Women and the AFI Cinematography Intensive for Women. AFI’s newest program is AFI Movie Club, a daily global engagement for those who love the movies. Read about all of these programs and more at and follow us on social media at,, and


About the AFI Conservatory

The AFI Conservatory opened its doors in 1969 to an inaugural class that included Terrence Malick, Caleb Deschanel and Paul Schrader. Today, the Conservatory offers a two-year MFA degree in six filmmaking disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting. In a collaborative production environment, AFI Fellows learn to master the art of storytelling, collectively creating up to 175 films a year. Fellows actively participate in the entire life cycle of a film, from development through production and exhibition.

Alumni of this elite program, ranging from modern masters to bold new voices defining the state of the art form include Andrea Arnold, Darren Aronofsky, Ari Aster, Sam Esmail, Brad Falchuk, Liz Hannah, Patty Jenkins, Janusz Kamiński, Matthew Libatique, David Lynch, Melina Matsoukas, Polly Morgan, Rachel Morrison and Wally Pfister, among others.



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