Tessa Thompson

“I wanted to make Passing because of this idea of what gets to be canon. No one ever handed me Nella Larsen’s work. I didn’t know it existed, and that felt astounding to me. Making this felt like an attempt to sort of canonize someone that should have been.

-Tessa Thompson, episode 258 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso

This week we’re joined by actor and producer Tessa Thompson! To begin, we talk about Thompson’s entry point into her new film Passing (7:56), a pivotal scene starring Bill Camp (11:08), the groundbreaking work of writers Nella Larsen (13:05) and Zora Neale Hurston (15:33), and how moviemaking keeps Tessa connected to something greater (19:37). 

On the back half, she shares her earliest inclinations toward acting (22:20) and activism (26:43), growing up in Los Angeles to creative parents (24:17), reckoning with her own ambition (30:19), how she learned to take up space in Hollywood (31:10), why she recently launched her own production company, Viva Maude (33:31), and what her success would’ve meant to her late grandmother (38:58).

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Illustrations by: Krishna Shenoi.

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