Tessa Thompson on Acting and Activism: 'If There’s a Risk in Speaking Up, It’s Always Felt Worth It'

Illustration for article titled Tessa Thompson on Acting and Activism: 'If There’s a Risk in Speaking Up, It’s Always Felt Worth It'
Photo: Frazer Harrison (Getty Images)

Outside of being one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actresses, Tessa Thompson is an advocate for Black lives and social justice. The Creed star tells Porter magazine in a new cover story that she hopes to continue to use her platform to bring awareness to the larger issues occurring in the industry and throughout the country.


“I can’t be a person at this moment in time and not want to talk about what’s happening in the world,” she explains. “I don’t think any artist necessarily has a responsibility to try being an agent of change, but, for me, it’s always been something that feels compelling. And if there’s a risk in speaking up, it’s always felt worth it. I’m just continuing to try to learn how to show up in those spaces and to pass the mic to folks who know a lot more than me.”

Elsewhere in the conversation, Thompson discussed that she doesn’t care if she loses out on work opportunities because of her advocacy.

“Anyone who wouldn’t want to work with me because I’m a person at this time fighting [that] the value and dignity of Black lives need to be protected…I really don’t want to work with them,” she continues. “It’s my life and it’s important that my core values line up with my creative ecosystem.”

On Instagram especially, the 36-year-old works to bring Black voices and stories to the forefront. In June, she let fans know about a petition to replace a statue of a “tired old colonizer” with one of LGBTQ rights pioneer and trans activist Marsha P. Johnson. Additionally, she educated fans about The Chicago Community Trust, which focuses on “closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap,” and handed over her IG page to their CEO for a takeover. Chicago has seen a staggeringly disproportionate effect on Black and Latinx communities as a result of COVID-19.

Outside of acting and activism, the 36-year-old is also a budding producer. She worked as an executive producer for writer-director Eugene Ashe’s upcoming film Sylvie’s Love, in which she will also star alongside Nnamdi Asomugha (who also happens to be married to Kerry Washington). She tells Porter that the film itself is reminiscent of The Notebook, but from a more personal standpoint.


“To make a film that centers around two Black people falling in love felt really impactful to me,” she explains. “I think even in these moments of peril and pain, it shows we’re still having dinner, we’re still celebrating, we’re still singing songs, we’re still making love and doing all the other things that we do as humans to sustain us.”


As far as projects in the works for Thompson, she nabbed a lead role in actress Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut Passing alongside Ruth Negga, which pertains to the privileges of passing for white and colorism during the 1920s. It’s based on the Nella Larsen book of the same name.

Read the entire interview here.

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Pronounced "Jay-nuh."