If you’re a subscriber (if not, why aren’t you?) our December 2017 issue should be arriving in your mailbox any day now, and on the cover you’ll find Tessa Thompson.
Inside, we’ve got a wide-ranging interview with intelligent, eloquent 34 year old actor. Although we touch on a gamut of topics—from her flea market obsession to all the ways in which she finds The Little Mermaid problematic—we thought we’d share an excerpt from some our conversation that touches on the reason Thompson is about to become a household name.
Here’s what she had to say about landing the role of Valkyrie in this month’s much anticipated Thor: Ragnarok…and how no one is more surprised than she is that it even happened.
“There was a time when I was conflicted,” [Thompson] says of this type of role. “I guess it was about this idea of trajectory—and partly because I’d never envisioned something like this. A play on Broadway? That’s something I’ve wanted since I was a teenager. I’d say yes without even knowing the part.”
Her ambivalence also has to do with the fact that, for a long time, Thompson didn’t consider herself a blockbuster sort of person. “I’d been dismissive of ‘big movies’ in the past,” she recalls, saying she walked out of The Matrix. She thought of herself as an indie-movie, “human stories” (said with an eye roll) type of artist and says her main role-choosing criterion is still “projects that serve a cultural conversation, that feel essential.”
But she’s also someone who loves a challenge, and she became intrigued by working on a green screen, which is a test of any actor’s imagination. That’s kinda why she agreed to meet with Thor: Ragnarok’s director, New Zealander Taika Waititi. Waititi has an Oscar (for a short film), but this was his first kick at the big-time directing can. “I’ve always been interested in his work,” says Thompson. “There’s a danger when you put an independent filmmaker into a big franchise that maybe they won’t be able to fully express their point of view, but I didn’t get that sense from Taika.”
She then flew to L.A. to audition in full hair and makeup and was actually lying in bed watching The Avengers when the studio called to offer her the job later that night. Thompson’s ambivalence about such roles is now gone. “It’s exciting when someone has something to say and the platform and resources to do it,” she says, pointing to the success of writer/actress Issa Rae. “It would’ve been hard for me to skip out on [being] a part of something that’s so iconic where I also get to do something that’s daring.”
The December issue of ELLE Canada is available everywhere November 13.