×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The untold truth of Tessa Thompson

Sometimes, it takes an actor years to get their start, but once they appear in enough high-profile projects, the hard work pays off, and they skyrocket to international stardom. And that's exactly what happened with Tessa Thompson

Thompson — who seamlessly transitioned from small television roles to a leading part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the course of several years — has proven herself as a serious Hollywood talent, imbuing each of her performances with heart, real emotion, humor, and great acting chops. And whether she's making music videos or starring in prestige HBO dramas, it seems Thompson is here to stay. So if you're still unfamiliar with this budding starlet who's just gaining more and more fame and acclaim, now's the time to get to know her a little better. Here's the untold truth of Tessa Thompson, from her acting roots to her dabbles in science fiction to her career outside of acting.

Tessa Thompson's roots in theater

Like many actors, Tessa Thompson got her start on the stage, but her theater work bears a special distinction. From a young age, Thompson appeared in several Shakespeare productions, showing an innate fluency for the Bard's notoriously complex language. Her first brush with Shakespeare was during her tenure at Santa Monica High School, where she played Hermia, one of the two female leads in the mystical forest romp A Midsummer Night's Dream. She followed that up by appearing in productions of The Tempest (as Ariel) and a modern interpretation of Romeo and Juliet that bore the subtitle Antebellum New Orleans, 1886. Working with Shakespeare's words is a unique challenge for any actor, but clearly, Thompson was up to the challenge, which prepared her perfectly for a long career to come.

However, her splashiest stage role ended up translating to the screen. After appearing onstage in Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls, she went to the director herself to win a role in his film version of the play, ending up in the 2010 adaptation thanks to her bold appeal.

Thompson's incredible TV career

Tessa Thompson's television debut was quite modest, appearing in a single episode of 2005's Cold Case. In this police procedural, Thompson played a lesbian bootlegger, showing up in flashbacks to the 1930s. However, that wasn't her only big television role that year, as she also booked a huge recurring role on Veronica Mars, UPN's cult classic about a teenage private investigator played by Kristen Bell.

Joining the show as a regular during its second season, Thompson portrayed Jackie Cook, the daughter of a popular baseball player who initially seemed like a classic, pampered rich girl, but in the end, it turned out she had plenty of secrets to hide. After heading back to New York City to take care of her young son and live with her mother, Thompson's part ended during the second season finale, but as an intrinsic part of the show, she certainly made her mark, especially for such an early role in her career.

The actress then appeared in two different projects with ABC showrunner Shonda Rimes: Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, playing a young girl with terminal cancer in the former and a woman whose embryo was mistakenly planted in another woman in the latter. She also had guest spots on NBC's Life and Heroes, showed up as a regular on the CW series Hidden Palms, and even starred as a regular on ABC's 666 Park Avenue. And that's not counting her guest appearance in Comedy Central's Drunk History, her leading part in BBC's Copper, or her role in HBO's West World. In other words, Tessa Thompson is basically the queen of TV shows.

She's a singer-songwriter

Plenty of performers dabble in the musical field — it might be shorter to make a list of actors who don't also play music than the reverse — and Thompson is no exception. A talented singer and songwriter, Thompson has worked with several different musical acts, including the Los Angeles-based Caught a Ghost, which served as her main musical outlet throughout her film and television career. Working with co-creator Jesse Nolan, the pair released their debut album in 2014, citing everything from soul to hip hop as their influences.

Thompson's music has also appeared in her other works, notably the Creed franchise. In the first film, Thompson contributed several tunes to the soundtrack, including "Shed You," and she followed that up in the sequel with even more music, including one song titled "Time Tick." It just goes to show that whether she's on the screen or in a studio, Tessa Thompson is all talent, all the time.

Thompson's film career before all the fame

Tessa Thompson's first film role came in 2006, when she appeared in a modern remake of the classic horror film When a Stranger Calls in a supporting role alongside actors like Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson in the MCU), Camilla Belle (The Ballad of Jack & Rose), and Katie Cassidy (Supernatural, Gossip Girl). A few years later, she appeared with Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) in Make It Happen, a 2008 dance film from the team behind Step Up.

The actress then followed these credits with some incredibly high-profile appearances. She starred in Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls, and she was featured in Justin Simien's Sundance darling Dear White People. She also appeared in a short film by musician Nate Ruess (best known for the band Fun) called The Grand Romantic, and she landed a supporting role as the real-life civil rights activist Diane Nash in Ava DuVernay's Selma, a biopic about Martin Luther King Jr. The film was ultimately nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, proving that Thompson knows how to pick solid material.

Thompson's behind-the-scenes role in Creed

Tessa Thompson began making serious waves in mainstream movies when she was cast in the super successful Creed franchise. The first film — a sequel to the beloved Rocky film series and directed by Black Panther auteur Ryan Coogler — focused on Adonis Creed, as played by Michael B. Jordan, who must discover his destiny as a boxer. Thompson played Adonis' love interest, Bianca Taylor, and she reprised her role in Creed II.

Over the course of two films, Thompson created a fully fleshed out and layered partner for Adonis. And if Thompson's performance feels particularly personal, it might have something to do with the fact that she made contributions to the film beyond her on-screen appearance. As well as contributing to the soundtrack, Thompson did some free location scouting, as well. After performing in a local spot called Johnny Brenda's in Philadelphia, Thompson suggested that it be featured in the film as a performance space for her character, and the rest is history.

She's making MCU history

At this point, it's pretty much every actor's fantasy to make it into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Luckily for Tessa Thompson, she scored a huge part in one of the MCU's most beloved films to date. Alongside Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, and Mark Ruffalo, Thompson starred in Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok, a funny, irreverent, and wonderfully absurd installment in the Thor franchise. Thompson won great acclaim for playing Valkyrie, a swaggering, drunken member of the Valkyrior who spends her days working as a slave trader. Thompson absolutely stole the show and soon returned for Avengers: Endgame to fight alongside her fellow heroes once again.

However, Thompson wasn't content with merely starring in the highest-grossing film of all time. She wanted to make history. See, fans of the MCU have been frustrated for quite some time about its often pointed lack of diversity in certain aspects. Though the universe pushes plenty of boundaries, it historically hasn't broached any issues regarding sexuality. However, that all changed in 2019, thanks in large part to Thompson's portrayal of Valkyrie.

Though Valkyrie's sexuality certainly seemed fluid throughout both Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame, she never seemed like a likely contender for Thor's heart, and now it's pretty clear that she's out of the running. During San Diego Comic-Con in 2019, MCU head honcho Kevin Feige confirmed that Valkyrie will become the MCU's first ever LGBTQ superhero in Thor: Love and Thunder. The actress herself confirmed it, saying the film would involve Valkyrie — as Asgard's new king — looking for her "queen."

This is definitely now a role even closer to Thompson's heart, considering that in real life, she's come out as bisexual, a bold move that allows her to live her life to the fullest and serve as a role model to millions of LGBTQ fans.

Her sci-fi films are a mixed bag

Tessa Thompson has dabbled in quite a few science fiction films over the years, and as she's made her way through the genre, the actress has produced some pretty varied results. The clear bottom of the barrel was her turn in Men in Black: International, alongside her Thor co-star Chris Hemsworth, which flopped at the box office and earned pretty poor reviews after its 2019 release. 

However, Thompson had much better luck with her other sci-fi outings, perhaps because she chose smaller indie projects rather than huge blockbuster efforts. In 2018, she appeared in two critically acclaimed films that were both an enormous and welcome departure from her previous roles. In Alex Garland's Annihilation, Thompson performed alongside Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, and Gina Rodriguez, making up a team of scientists exploring a mysterious mutated zone of plants and animals. And in Sorry to Bother You, she starred with Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta, Get Out) and Armie Hammer (The Social Network, Call Me By Your Name) in Boots Riley's surreal parody of the telemarketing industry. Men in Black might be a literal black mark on her record, but at least she has two genuine sci-fi hits.

More than friends?

Beyond her own music career, Tessa Thompson has found a frequent musical collaborator in Janelle Monae, a true triple threat who's taken the entertainment world by storm since breaking onto the scene in 2003. A Grammy-nominated musician who's also appeared in major films like Hidden Figures and Moonlight, Monae is a force to be reckoned with, and she's proven to be a perfect creative partner for a star like Thompson.

The two share a close friendship, frequently showing up on red carpets together, but the gossip about their relationship truly came to a head when Thompson appeared in a video for "Pynk," one of the singles from Monae's beloved 2018 album Dirty Computer. After rumors swirled for quite some time, Thompson addressed them somewhat when she came out as bisexual, saying that the two "love each other deeply." Though they've never confirmed that they're in a full-on relationship, Thompson is clearly close with Monae, who's come out as both bisexual and pansexual. Speculating too much about the relationship between this pair of talented women is probably futile, but in the end, fans of both artists can at least hope for more collaborations between the two.

Tessa Thompson's frequent collaborator

Many actors make the choice to work together repeatedly, and ever since Thompson's first appearance in the MCU, she's joined forces with one of her co-stars for multiple films.

After playing against Chris Hemsworth in Thor: Ragnarok, Thompson reunited with him in the highly anticipated Avengers: Endgame, as well as pairing up again as the title agents for 2019's Men in Black: International. In an interview with Collider about Men in Black, Hemsworth said, "A lot of the time when you work with a costar, you spend sometimes the first half of the shoot getting to know each other and so to not have to do that is always a huge relief," indicating that the two have a healthy rapport on set. Thompson, for her part, told the Los Angeles Times, "I feel really lucky because he's so good at [making blockbusters] and so giving and has taught me so much about the stamina it takes to make these kinds of movies, the imagination, the sense of humor, and how important it is to keep morale up on set, which he does so well."

Every time these two are paired up in a film, the minds behind the project decide they shouldn't be paired up romantically, keeping the two as platonic friends. And there's no denying they click really well together. If you add that to their seriously adorable social media presence and the fact that Thompson said she "loves" working with Hemsworth, it seems as if Hollywood has another juggernaut pair on its hands.