Tessa Thompson chops it up with the latest issue of Time magazine about representation, female empowerment and what it means to be a queer woman of color navigating Hollywood.
“I’ve been really lucky,” she says, “to work with filmmakers like Ryan Coogler who, when they’re trying to write the female experience, empower the women they work with to help them where they fall short.”
Thompson stirred up “Avengers” fandom frenzy when she took to Twitter a few years ago to note that Valkyrie, the Marvel superhero she plays in “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Avengers: Endgame,” is bi-sexual, at least according to the comic books.
She addressed the controversy over her comment in the Time interview.
“You don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you,” she says. “But I think a friendly bite is okay. Inclusion doesn’t happen by mistake. You have to push people. Sometimes shame is a powerful tool.” She pauses. “That wasn’t necessarily my intention, but I don’t mind it being a dare.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, the daughter of a black Panamanian father, and half-Mexican, half-white mother, Thompson’s breakout performance was in 2014’s Dear White People. Since then, her unwillingness to compromise with the roles she accepts has earned her scores of fans and folks from around the world have hit her up on social media thanking her for representing the queer community.
“I don’t think any artist has the responsibility to be the ambassador, especially when it comes to who you love,” she says. “I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to keep that separate from their professional life. There’s not just a perceived risk of coming out in Hollywood. There’s a real one.”
For the past two years at Sundance, Tessa has hosted an event called In the Intersection, which aims to find ways to address discrimination within the industry. She has also asked industry players and colleagues to accept the 4% Challenge, an initiative that calls on studios and actors to commit to working with one female director in the next 18 months. As it currently stands, women have reportedly directed only 4% of the top 1,200 studio films since 2007.
“Every big opportunity I have been provided has always been with people of color,” she says. On those sets, she knows that she and the director share an unspoken goal to break barriers. But that’s not entirely by choice. “There is a long list of white, male filmmakers I would love to work with,” she says. “But they just don’t see me. They just don’t.”
Read Tessa’s full Time profile here.
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