How Tessa Thompson Became A Modern Marvel

How Tessa Thompson Became A Modern Marvel


Anita Badejo, Associate Features Editor

At a time when Hollywood is finally developing the kinds of projects for actors of color that had traditionally been out of reach, Tessa Thompson’s ascent to the A-list isn’t just welcome — it’s necessary. How can she embody this pivotal cultural moment without being defined by it?

Tessa Thompson has a problem. “I really like to be good at things,” she says, reclining in a rich brown leather chair in the Library bar of Manhattan’s NoMad Hotel. It’s a Sunday afternoon in March, and Thompson is wearing a sheer black blouse with gold-chained collar pins and high-waisted acid-wash jeans. “It’s an impediment sometimes.”

The idea that the 32-year-old could be impeded by anything seems unlikely. In the past two years, she has been touted as Hollywood’s Next Big Thing based on performances in films such as the indie darling Dear White People, the historical drama Selma, and November’s box office hit Creed, and she has parlayed those successes into at least three potentially life-changing upcoming roles. “To be really bad in the beginning and to risk being bad every time and just continually be compelled to want to be good and better?” she says, her Ts aspirated in the manner of a lifelong performer. “Acting is the only thing I was able to push through that.”

And, as Thompson acknowledges, the roles she’s had a particular knack for so far have tackled complicated issues of race and gender — all befitting the multiracial actress, who peppers her musings with references to everyone from bell hooks to Laurence Olivier. “Whatever alchemy it is, those are the kind of parts that I’m going to be better at.”…

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