You will remember Tessa Thompson for the vulnerability she brought to her role as Nyla in For Colored Girls, the power she brought to Selma as Diane Nash and the authenticity and fierceness she brought to her character Sam in Dear White People.
Thompson spoke candidly about how she prepared for the role, her personal connection to her character, steamy sex scenes with Michael BAE and how she just found out what Netflix and Chill means.
When asked if she was a fan of the franchise before she accepted the role of Bianca, she giggled and started humming the Eye Of The Tiger theme song.
‘Rocky is such a part of American film iconography, that I feel like it’s unavoidable that it’s a part of your life. I didn’t grow up watching the films unlike Ryan Coogler [Director of Creed and Fruitvale Station], whose dad would have him watch Rocky 2 before he would have big games,’ she explained.
Thompson spoke highly of Coogler, who was deeply entrenched in the story line and the characters. Under his direction, he and Tessa worked together to make Bianca a moving character. Bianca is a singer who is going deaf. Unlike most ordinary on-screen BAEs, her character has a developed sense of self, sexy confidence and acts as source of strength for Adonis (Michael B’s character).
‘In the context of sports movies it’s really rare to find a character that is the girlfriend or the wife who is nuanced and has her own thing going on,’ said Thompson, opening up about her connection to the unique character. ‘That was something that was incredibly important to Ryan [Coogler] and obviously really important to me. We had early conversations after I got the role about how to complicate her character, and how to give her something that she’s fighting for. She was always a singer, but her losing her hearing was an idea [Ryan] pitched to me and something we found together,’ she explained.’
Tessa’s personality infused with the character to create the singing voice and musical aesthetic of Bianca.
‘Even though music has always been apart of my life, that was an incredible undertaking because the idea is that this woman has spent her whole adult life finding her voice, and we had two weeks to find it. That was something really cool, and on the other hand I got to get in the ring and spar with Mike in the thematic sense,’ she continued.
Tessa explained that landing the role took her proving that she could stand toe-to-toe with Michael in terms of intense method acting and training.
‘It was really important for Ryan, because he’s someone who is really interested in authenticity, so initially he thought maybe he would cast a singer, someone who is purely a singer to play the role. What he found in the casting process is he needed to make sure it was really someone who could hold their own with Mike, who is obviously such a gifted actor, and who could challenge and push him,’ the actress expressed.
The director found that grit in Tessa, who brought sex appeal and integrity to the role.
‘I thought it was such unique thing for me to get to do. In the same way Mike is learning a new art form in the form of boxing and undertaking that challenge, I had two weeks to create the voice of this musician and this artist,’ she elaborated.
Tessa definitely gave Michael an artistic run for his money — the independent voice and tone she crafted for Bianca is no less than audio sex. The song ‘Grip’ stirs something in you that’s primal.
The sensuality of the music translates into passionate scenes with Michael B. Jordan.
When we asked her what it was like filming love scenes with the sex symbol, she confidently said, it wasn’t awkward at all (If it were us we would’ve been shakkkkkinngg, chile).
‘Truthfully when you think of sex scenes in movies, you think of a bunch of people around, but Ryan really wanted to preserve this sense of intimacy so that you could capture the feeling a couple has when they are private. We wanted instead to tell the story of two people whose lives had become inter-tangled and who are confidants and cohorts,’ she starts.
‘The nudity for us in that, and first of all it’s a PG-13 film–but we are in fact naked under those covers,’ she explains.
‘I think for us it was about being emotionally naked and not so much the physicality. Mike and I were fast friends and we were long admirers of each other’s work, so we had an easy rapport and it didn’t feel awkward. Literally, when we shot it that day Ryan was the only one who was in and out of that room,’ she told us.
Well, I guess that’s why she’s the trained performer while we are sitting in our seats swooning.
The on-screen chemistry of the couple was electric, and she was happy to hear that each moment translated so clearly:
‘We wanted to talk about what Black love looks like and shoot it in a way that looks honest,’ she revealed.
While the scenes in Creed are on 100 degrees, all around the country it’s getting colder and colder. We asked Tessa how she survives cuffing season.
‘That’s when everyone gets together because they are cold right?’ she laughed.
‘I transition easily, because for me I was born and raised in LA, which famously has sort of a lack of seasons, but I spent a lot of time with my family on the East coast, so i’m really nostalgic for winter weather, and instead of getting mixed up with the wrong person just because i’m cold, I like to layer–that’s my jam,’ she quipped.
Kudos to her for adding layers instead of bodies, ha!
But she was close to getting caught up in a situation, when a couple of men asked her to hang out for some Netflix and chill.
‘I just realized that I didn’t know what Netflix and chill meant. I thought people were really gonna watch Netflix. I didn’t know it was code for sexy time.’
We’re guessing with all of the media surrounding this movie, it will be a long time before Tessa is ‘chillin.’
Tessa’s portrayal of Bianca, along with the intense fight scenes, inspiring plot and natural rapport between Thompson and Jordan makes this movie a must-see.