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Never let it be said that Tessa Thompson lacks range. The actress cut her teeth performing Shakespeare with the Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company, had her breakout role playing civil rights activist Diane Nash in Ava DuVernay's Selma, won plaudits for her astonishing portrayal of a conflicted housewife in 1920s' Harlem in the 2021 film Passing and now, in her third outing in the role, Thompson can be found riding a flying horse and brandishing a lightning bolt, as the Marvel superhero/demigod Valkyrie, in Thor: Love and Thunder.
"I think what is captivating about the Marvel Cinematic Universe... is that the superheroes really connect us to our humanity because they are well drawn characters that are complex," she says, of her involvement in the hugely successful comic book franchise. "So you get action and excitement but you also get storylines that connect you to being a human and hopefully make you feel less alone."
In person, she is every bit as confident as her superhero alter ego, and as friendly. Quick to laugh and thoughtful, she says she doesn't believe in guilty pleasures, that her friends would describe her as "a bad texter" and confirms "any Prince" would get her on the dance floor. "I do not have signature dance move," she admits. "But I do like to spin. I do a lot of spinning. I'm embarrassed for myself."
Thompson exudes the kind of energy you would most like to have at a party, where – apparently – she may start talking about dairy products. "I've never eaten an egg," she says, simply. "People seem shocked by that so when I don't have something to say at a party I just pull that one out and it's always a conversation starter." A really great party is, she notes, where she feels at her best. "You know when you have those nights out and you're too busy dancing and talking and being with friends and you're not self-conscious? I think whenever I feel free, that's when I feel the most beautiful."
Her relaxed demeanour and down-to-earth approach stems, she notes, from the best career advice she ever received, which was not to take it all too seriously. "But that's just great advice for life," she laughs, shrugging. She believes a career moment which made her is starring in Justin Simien's 2014 Sundance-winning film Dear White People (which would later go on – with a new cast – to become a critically acclaimed Netflix show). "Never mind what it did for my career," she recalls, "it reaffirmed my faith in filmmaking and the kinds of characters I could play in Hollywood."
If she wasn't an actress, Thompson says she would be a producer, something she is, through her new company Viva Maude, actually already doing. "But I always wanted to be a dancer," she adds, wistfully, "or a cultural anthropologist... and recently an interior designer. I should really quit acting soon so I can get on to all these other jobs."
Until then, she has her latest outing as commanding, witty, scene-stealing Valkyrie to promote, which she sums up in true Thompson style: "I would describe Thor: Love and Thunder as a bat***t crazy movie about the redemptive power of love...and two really great GOATs."
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