Creed’s Tessa Thompson Explains When She Realized There Was A Place For Her In Hollywood As A Black Actress

Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson in Creed
(Image credit: MGM)

Tessa Thompson has built an impressive resume that shows her talents and her ability to fit into pretty much any project you can throw at her. Pretty soon audiences will get to see that put into practice yet again, thanks to the 2023 new movie release Creed III. Unfortunately, Thompson herself hasn’t always seen the path that clearly when it came to her career as a Black actress. That thankfully changed after she landed one important role, proving that there was indeed a place in Hollywood for Tessa Thompson. 

Revealing that project during a BuzzFeed interview, Thompson admitted that writer/director Justin Simien’s Dear White People was the movie that clicked on the lightbulb. Here’s how she began to describe that pivotal experience: 

I try not to think too much about men! But I think you know what, it’s actually interesting. Because with Dear White People, if I'm honest, that's the first time I feel like I even saw myself. It felt like it was the first role I really felt part of a project, as not just the object of the narrative, I also got to be a subject of the narrative. That's what Justin (Simien) was trying to do. He was trying to explore Black people existing in their spaces as real dimensional human beings, you know?

A satire that highlighted the subject of race relations on a college campus, Dear White People saw Tessa Thompson play the protagonist Samantha. Hosting the campus radio show that gives the film its name, the role was a breakthrough for the actor on a personal and professional level. Though admittedly, it’s one of Thompson’s roles people may have forgotten about once the blockbuster offers came rolling in.  

It’s a shame to even think of Dear White People that way, as the movie did eventually spawn a successful Netflix series, which Tessa Thompson also found herself playing a part of. More importantly, audience members could see Thompson coming into her own through the sharp and clear voice Samantha had to offer in this movie’s ecosystem. You can even feel that taking shape by watching the trailer to Dear White People, which is provided below for context: 

While it wasn’t her first gig, as she’d acted in films and television shows for years beforehand, Tessa Thompson credits Dear White People for keeping her in the game. Continuing her story, the Thor: Love and Thunder star fleshed out the moment that really dug into those questions of whether Hollywood was right for her. Thompson reexamined those questions, and shared what exactly changed her mind, as follows: 

And the truth is, before I made that movie, I was like, 'I don't know if I will make it in Hollywood.' Yeah, it was some questions of 'Am I good enough? Am I attractive enough?' But I was also wondering if Hollywood was going to allow someone like me the chance to do enough that’s interesting – allow me to show up in various parts of my humanity. And before, Dear White People, I thought the answer was no, so that movie really changed my mind.

Without her role in Dear White People, we may have never seen the fantastic work that Tessa Thompson has done through the roles that came after. That includes her work helping diversify the stories in the MCU through Valkyrie, as well as work in socially relevant movies like the Academy Award nominee Selma; a film that also had its place in Hollywood questioned by some. 

Thankfully, history shook out the way it was supposed to, and Thompson’s blockbuster work with indie directors has prepared her for Creed III’s upcoming March 3rd release, and beyond. Fans can look forward to the return of Bianca and Adonis in the weeks to come, further proving how much of a dynamite talent Tessa Thompson truly is, and why Hollywood should be grateful to have her.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.