Birthdate: October 3, 1983
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA
Tessa Thompson (birthname: Tessa Lynne Thompson) is a classically trained actor who has achieved high status in a talented young generation of Black film artists, holding leading roles in major work made by Black filmmakers such as Ryan Coogler, Justin Simien, Ava DuVernay and Boots Riley. Thompson’s feature debut was in the Simon West-directed remake of When a Stranger Calls (2006), with Camilla Belle, Brian Geraghty, and Clark Gregg, and earning over four times costs with a $67 million global box office return. After the commercially failed dance movie, Make It Happen (2008), in which Thompson co-starred, she starred in writer-director Tina Mabry’s rural Mississippi drama, Mississippi Damned (2009), and though the movie earned accolades on the festival circuit, it received a tiny theatrical run.
After co-starring in such small films as writer-director Carmen Madden’s debut feature, Everyday Black Man (2010), and writer-director Scott David Russell’s Exquisite Corpse (2010), Thompson received her first role in a major movie with Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls, a film version of Ntozake Shange’s acclaimed play, as Thompson joined Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Thandiwe Newton, Kerry Washington, and Whoopi Goldberg, and nearly doubling its budget with a $38 million global haul. Writer-director Justin Simien’s dark comedy-drama, Dear White People (2014), was Thompson’s next notable film assignment, opposite Tyler James Williams, Kyle Gallner, and Dennis Haysbert, and premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, earning a profitable $5.4 million and spawning a Netflix spinoff series.
Thompson served as an executive producer and co-starred in the Kristin Hanggi-directed indie drama, Grantham & Rose (2014), followed by Thompson being cast by director Ava Duvernay in a supporting role in the civil rights drama, Selma (2014), starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr., Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tim Roth, and Oprah Winfrey, and grossing three times its $20 million budget with a $67 million global return.
Landing the lead female role in the reboot of the Rocky franchise, Creed (2015), Tessa Thompson’s profile shot up considerably playing opposite Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, and Phylicia Rashad under Ryan Coogler’s direction (and also writing a song for the movie’s soundtrack), grossing a sensational $173.6 million worldwide. Thompson joined Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Peña, and Caleb Landry Jones for the little-seen British buddy cop movie, War on Everyone (2016), and after a few more minor features, Thompson was cast as Valkyrie in her first MCU movie with Thor: Ragnarok (2017), directed by Taika Waititi and co-starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Hopkins, earning a robust global $854 million.
For something completely different, Thompson co-starred with LaKeith Stanfield in writer-director Boots Riley’s brilliant, imaginative feature debut, Sorry to Bother You (2018), with Jermaine Fowler, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, Danny Glover, and Steven Yeun, and grossing six times costs with over $18 million. Tessa Thompson joined writer-director Alex Garland for the fascinating Jeff VanderMeer adaptation, Annihilation (2018), starring Natalie Portman, with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Oscar Isaac, and then Thompson co-starred in the small indie drama, Furlough (2018), with the impressive cast of Melissa Leo, Edgar Ramirez, Anna Paquin.
Thompson starred in and executive-produced a much better-reviewed small indie drama, Little Woods (2018) by writer-director Nia DaCosta and with Lily James, and released to fine reviews by Neon. Thompson returned to the role of Bianca in Coogler’s Creed II (2018), while writing another song for the new movie’s soundtrack, and then made another franchise return to the Valkyrie role in the mega-blockbuster, Avengers: Endgame (2019), directed by the Russo Brothers and co-starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Jon Favreau, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Josh Brolin, and grossing a remarkable $2.8 million.
Tessa Thompson’s third franchise stint arrived in 2019 with the fourth installment of the Men in Black series, with Men in Black: International, directed by F. Gary Grey and co-starring Hemsworth, and nearly tripling costs with a global take of $254 million. After two features released on streaming TV (Disney’s 2019 Lady and the Tramp, and Amazon Prime’s Sylvie’s Love--for which Thompson starred and executive-produced--in 2020), Thompson co-starred in the highly acclaimed period drama written and directed by Rebecca Hall, Passing (2021), with Ruth Negga, André Holland, Bill Camp, and Alexander Skarsgård, and premiering in the Sundance Film Festival and earning $10 million in a combined theatrical and streaming release on Netflix.
After her third turn as Valkyrie in her second Thor movie, Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), directed and co-written by Taika Waititi, Thompson played the only on-screen role in director-producer Steve Buscemi’s drama, The Listener (2022), which premiered at the Venice Film Festival (as the closing film in the Giornate Degli Autori section) and then Toronto. Thompson then returned to her role of Bianca in Creed III (2023), the first movie in the series to be directed and co-produced by star Michael B. Jordan, with new cast member Jonathan Majors.
Tessa Thompson was born in Los Angeles, and raised in both her hometown and Brooklyn by her parents Marc Anthony Thompson, founder of the music collective, Chocolate Genius, and her mother. Thompson has a complex ethnic heritage: Her father is Afro-Panamanian and her mother is half-Anglo and half-Mexican. Thompson has a paternal half-sister, singer-songwriter Zsela.
In Los Angeles, Thompson attended and graduated from Santa Monica High School and then studied cultural anthropology as well as performing in the theater arts department of Santa Monica College. At the college, Thompson made a connection with the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company, with whom she subsequently made her professional acting debut in the company’s 2002 production of The Tempest. Thompson’s height is 5’ 3¾”. Her estimated net worth is $4 million.
Music Band: Tessa Thompson is a member of the Los Angeles-based electro-soul band, Caught A Ghost with Jesse Nolan.
Fluid: Thompson said in 2018 that, although she doesn’t identify as bisexual, she is attracted to both women and men.