Tessa Thompson Talks Racism In Hollywood & Thoughts On Zoe Saldana Portraying Nina Simone

Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images
Tessa Thompson rejects the idea that being light-skinned gets her more roles in Hollywood.

Actress Tessa Thompson is one of dozens of celebrities who has often used her platform to speak out about social issues for much of her career in Hollywood and she recently opened up with her thoughts on several important topics in a new interview.

Tessa gained notoriety in 2016 for her role opposite Michael B. Jordan in the 2016 blockbuster Creed, while previously earning praise for her performances in several critically acclaimed films including Selma, Dear White People and Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls. Speaking specifically on the idea that her success as a Black woman in the film industry can be partially attributed to her lighter skin tone, Tessa tells Buzzfeed she doesn't believe that to be an accurate assessment. “I remember reading some idea that I had been cast in Creed because I’m light-skinned,” she said. “That idea — that I’m in a position because Hollywood is so racist, I get parts because I’m more palatable — it’s not that I’m uncomfortable confronting the validity of that, it’s that I also feel—I have a hard time with that. Because I just don’t think it’s true.” Tessa also opened up about how her own experiences in high school made it easy for her to identify with her character Sam in Dear White People. "It felt like Sam White was somebody that was manipulating identity and really understood that identity is a performance,” she told the outlet. “I think because of my high school experience I understood what that was. And it was a way to get to process that and think about that with levity.” Despite not being afraid to remain active in supporting causes she believes in, Tessa has steered clear of the popular practice of oversharing on social media when it comes her personal life. “If you have social media at all as a public figure, there’s sort of this expectation that you’re an open book, and I’m just not interested in engaging in that way,” she says. “There’s no way I could ever be dismissive of what you can do on social media. I like people that have real direct conversations with their fans. I’m interested in watching that from afar. But personally, that’s not a thing that I want. I don’t think I’d be good at it.”

Giving her unapologetically honest opinion on Zoe Saldana being chosen to portray iconic musician and civil rights activist Nina Simone in her biopic, Tessa admitted that Zoe wouldn't have been her first choice for the role. "I’m not sure she would have been the first person that I would have thought of to play Nina,” she said. “To me, Nina is someone that was so seamless, she couldn’t separate her politics from her work. She was an artist that said to us, ‘How could you not reflect the times that we live in?’ And that’s not something that I’ve necessarily seen in Zoe’s work in the same way.” 

Tessa's upcoming projects include a lead role in the Marvel comics superhero film Thor: Ragnarok, as well as a starring role in the sci-fi drama Annihilation alongside Gina Rodriguez and Natalie Portman, among others. Both films are set to hit theaters in 2017.

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