As you might have already heard, Thor: Ragnarok, the latest Thor movie and possible last one to star Chris Hemsworth changes the game a little bit for both Marvel and the character. Hemsworth is hysterical trying to woo just about everyone over with his charms. Most of the movie is actually more of an adaptation of the comic book story, Planet Hulk then it is about saving Asgard, and it continues a trend set forth by the Guardians Of The Galaxy movies - the cosmic Marvel universe is way funnier and takes itself less seriously than what goes down on in Iron Man and Captain America movies.
One game changer here was the casting of Scrapper 142, aka the Asgardian warrior woman Valkyrie. Played by Tessa Thompson to be part functioning alcoholic, part vivacious vixen, and all-warrior, Tessa helped usher to the big screen one of Thor (and Marvel’s) more popular leading ladies.
As the roles of women expand in the Marvel Universe and in the real world, girls like Tessa provide an empowering voice - you don't have to be a man to get the spotlight. Sure, to have a scene-stealing action scene in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, here are 15 Things We Didn't Know About Tessa Thompson.
15 Not Her First Superhero Drama
As more and more comic book stories get adapted for both TV and the movies, we are getting more and more crossovers, as far as actors appearing in them go. The Human Torch has been played by both Killmonger and Captain America, and that's just within Marvel. The Atom has played Superman, and even Batman played the Vulture in the last Spidey flick. There's cross-pollination all over these Hollywood adaptations.
While this might be Tessa’s first proper comic book movie, she is no stranger to the super-hero genre. She was part of the wildly popular and then infuriating head-scratching Heroes. Debuting in 2006 on NBC, the series opened up a lot of eyes to what the superhero could be and was a precursor to a lot of the episodic storytelling that we have now in comic book movies and TV shows.
Thomson had Becky Taylor during the Dark Carnival as part of season four; a pledge at the same sorority as Claire’s who can turn invisible.
14 Played Detroit
Long before NBC started showcasing police practices in the Midwest with Chicago PD, ABC (which coincidentally is owned by Disney, who also own Marvel), they tried their hand with the show, Detroit 1-8-7. The show was a starring vehicle for a post-Sopranos Michael Imperioli as a very odd man. The show didn't catch on and the series was cancelled after one season. Tessa got to guest star several times in the show as the wife of Detective Washington’s wife, Lauren. Detective Washington found himself wounded on his first day only to be saved by Finch.
Tessa also got to play a character named Detroit in the upcoming film, Sorry To Bother You. In the sci-fi comedy movie, starring Lakeith Stanfield (Straight Outta Compton) as a telemarketer named Cassius, he finds a key to succeed in business. As Detroit, Thompson plays Cassius’ girlfriend.
Also guest-starring Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Patton Oswalt, here is just a funny little coincidence for Ms. Tessa, and this film will be able to showcase her comedies talents, some of which she showed while slaying the game in Ragnarok.
13 Played Monica Geller In a Jay-Z Video
Before Tessa and Lakeith Stanfield team up for Sorry To Bother You in June, if you're looking for not just more of Tessa, but a preview of the couple’s chemistry together on-screen, look no further than the big man of Hip-Hop himself, Jay-Z. He cast them both in his music video for “Moonlight,” playing Monica and Chandler Bing in a send-up of Friends.
The video gets serious after the parody as a commentary on Black culture in film, concluding with Warren Beatty’s epic gaff in proclaiming La-La Land the best picture over Moonlight. As for Tessa’s part in the video, she was dying to know what the real Monica Gellar, aka Courtney Cox thought about the portrayal. When Entertainment Tonight asked her if any one from the cast got word to her about the video, especially Courtney, she lamented no.
“I didn't! I'm holding out for Courtney Cox to call me one Tuesday and be like ‘Hey!’” The song and video might be Jay-Z commentary on Black culture in Hollywood, but Tessa’s part in it is light and charming and neurotic, like the real deal was, showing just how versatile Thompson is.
12 When Valkyrie Dated Killmonger
In 1976, movie audiences were introduced to Apollo Creed, the trash-talking heavyweight champion of the world in the beloved first few Rocky movies. With an abysmal fifth installment and age catching up to series creator and star, Sylvester Stallone, we had probably seen the last of “the Italian Stallion.” But Stallone brought the character back in Rocky Balboa. With the success of that film, Black Panther writer and director, Ryan Coogler was the man at the helm for the spin-off movie, Creed.
Michael B. Jordan starred as Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo, who pursues a career in boxing and seeks out his father’s old challenger and friend, Rocky to train him. Throughout the film, he meets and falls for Bianca, an aspiring musician, played by Thompson. Bianca’s a regular Mozart, playing music despite her progressive hearing loss.
Now that both actors are part of the MCU – Thompson as Valkyrie and Jordan as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, the villain of the critically acclaimed Black Panther, both of their stars are going to light up the night when the sequel to Creed comes out in November 2018.
11 Born In LA And Raised In Brooklyn
The Los Angeles native also has love for and in New York - she spent her winters and summers in the Empire State, Brooklyn to be exact. While these two cities are meccas for art, culture, and cinema, and certainly had their influence on Tess growing up, it was always her dream to be an actress, despite hamming it up for family movies. Once she realized she wanted to perform, she was off to the races.
After going to school for cultural anthropology, the Afro-Latina beauty set her sights on Tinseltown. She takes great pride in her heritage because she knows her fans do, too. “In terms of representation in film, I just want to see…more representations of Latinos and how varied we can be,” she told the NY Daily News.
“I know, just from Twitter, for example, there'll be people that tweet at me, or I'll see a tweet that I've been tagged in when they understand that I'm an Afro-Latino. That means a lot to them. That means that they're represented.”
10 Part Of Caught With A Ghost
With both her father and grandfather being entertainers, and she herself growing up Los Angeles and Brooklyn at a time where all kinds of music styles were coming together, it's no surprise that in addition to honing her skills as a badass actress, that Tessa would also be honing her skills as a badass musician as well.
As part of the Indie Electronic band, Caught With A Ghost, Thompson gets to flex her musical chops, as well as use her Hollywood fame to create a buzz for the band. After releasing their debut album in 2014, Human Nature, the group provided two songs for the soundtrack of her film, Dear White People. The director of the movie, Justin Simien thanked them by directing their video for the single, “Get Your Life.”
The group has also provided music for several TV shows, including covering Madonna’s iconic “Like A Virgin,” and Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me.”
9 For When Its Time To Do A New Catwoman
Strangely enough, while women have more or less always had strong representation in comics (at least as far back as a generation or two ago), on TV, and in the movies, only a select few of the fairer gender had been realized, and to varying results. From Linda Carter as Wonder Woman to even Lori Petty as the indie comic punk-rock Tank Girl, there have been all kinds of depictions, possibly only one character has become the most iconic (at least before Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman), and that's Catwoman.
While some people like to voice displeasure over iconic characters being played by entirely different colors (see Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin / Michael B. Jordan as Human Torch), it's a trend that comic book adaptations have been doing since way back. Eartha Kitt was a trendsetter here, playing Catwoman during the now mythical 1960s Batman series.
While it would be fantasy casting here, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Thompson could play the “Santa Baby” singer in a potential biopic of the boundary-defying singer-actress. This would put in her a Ben Affleck-level as far as superhero flicks go, playing two separate heroes, and one more in a biopic of the actress’ life.
8 Wonder Woman Vs Valkyrie
In the past, in the early days of comic book cinema, there were movies like Red Sonja, featuring the idea of strong kick-ass women. But for the most part, the characters were lesser known, badly realized, and scantily-clad. The source material wasn't taken seriously, and we got movies like Sheena. Now of course we get movies like Wonder Woman and the upcoming Captain Marvel. We get strong female characters who are taken seriously for their skill, and yes their feminine whiles too, but why not use every weapon in your arsenal?
In addition to Gal Gadot playing the Amazon goddess, Wonder Woman, Thompson steals the show as the Asgardian goddess, Valkyrie. Two characters who are unparalleled fighters, and both ladies pulled off their respective roles and fighting prowess, because both were trained by the same sword smith to put on their respective action scenes.
7 Nominated For A BAFTA
In America, even to this day, the Academy Awards still seems like a stuffy awards show filled with unnecessary pomp and circumstance every year. The best film nominees and best movies nominated often give the old and stuffy impression. So while movies like Selma are great and very important culturally, and most importantly for this piece feature Ms. Thompson, they're also not as pulse-pounding or exciting as say…Thor: Ragnarok.
Not that the Marvel Mouse House Of Ideas is exactly crying over that notion, but it would be pretty cool to see some more main stream, and universally loved popcorn movies get some Academy love. Thankfully, across the pond, the BAFTA awards while still love their critical darlings, also give praise to rising stars and their fans and have a fan voted on Rising Star award.
Tessa, along with four other young stars was nominated for this award. She did lose out to Daniel Kaluuya for his performance in Get Out, but between this award and her NAACP nomination for Best Supporting Actress, it seems that Tessa (and Valkyrie’s) stock in the MCU and Hollywood is growing.
6 Equality Goddess
After ten years and what will be 18 movies by the time Infinity War comes out, Marvel hasn't made any great strides towards women. Aside from Black Widow and Gamora, the rest of the Marvel leading ladies are mere mortal damsels in distress. So Tessa coming in as Valkyrie as a supporting character (who still had a very big lead) was a huge step in the right direction.
After the socio-politico 2018, it is refreshing to see an actress play a character and subverting everything we know about her. It made the character better onscreen than her comic book counterpart.
One of the things that Tessa helped to infuse in her character that wasn't a change from the comic books is that Valkyrie happens to adore women. There was a scene filmed on Sakaar, where at least one girl is leaving the warrior woman’s room and director Taika Waititi did his best to leave the scene in as long as he could before it hit the cutting room floor. But still, it now confirmed - with or without the scene, the Valkyrie is the MCU’s first character to walk on both sides of the street.
5 Inspired By Han Solo And Sarah Connor
When we first meet her, she doesn't even have a name - she's just Scrapper 142, a scavenger who scours the globe looking for fighters for the Grandmaster and his champion to annihilate. While a formidable fighter, she also tends to drink a bit much and generally has no regard for what's right and decent. She's not a villain, just kind of a jerk with a chip on her soldier.
If that doesn't remind you of another space-traversing galactic pirate, then go back and watch the original Star Wars from 1977. While Scrapper 142 doesn't have a giant walking carpet following her around, her roguish charms and devil-may-careless attitude is very similar to Han Solo.
It's no coincidence either, the pilot of the Millennium Falcon was indeed inspiration for Tessa’s take on Valkyrie. That is how she was pitched the character by the director. As for her physical prowess, Thomspon looked to the iconic mother-of-the-resistance, Sarah Connor from the Terminator series.
4 Her Friendship With Janelle Monae
While it is happenstance of casting that she is playing an iconic bi character, Tessa Thompson herself seems to running up the same flagpole, so to speak. She has been seen with pop star, Janelle Monae, who herself states that she “loves androids,” and supports the community.
According to Monae, Androids represent the “new other.” Tessa doesn't seem to be a robot or an android, but Monae does seem to warm for Tessa’s form, and vice versa. While Tessa hasn't said a lot in reference to her own preferences, there are a slew of pictures online of the pair.
Considering the pics and some of the roles she has taken, it wouldn't be too shocking to learn these two are officially more than just friends. Tessa once told Buzzfeed News, “I've always been someone that's really fascinated by identity and really aware that it's a creation.” Having an open mind certainly makes it very possible these two are coming home to one another every night.
3 Descendant Of A Genius
Tessa is a musician, has appeared in music videos for the likes of Jay-Z, and her friend, Janelle Monae, so clearly Tessa has an affinity for music and an ear for it as well. Why shouldn’t she? On top of her own musical abilities, she is a descendant of not one, but two musically inclined men.
Her grandfather is Bobby Ramos, who was, like his granddaughter, an actor and a musician, and one of the first Mexican-Americans to get his own TV show, Latin Cruise, which was a local syndicated show in Los Angeles. Her father, Marc Anthony Thompson released two solo albums in 1984 and 1989 before starting a collective for musicians, that he dubbed Chocolate Genius.
The group has had plenty of New York musicians and most famously has contributed to soundtracks, such as their cover of The Beatles’ “Julia” for the movie, I Am Sam.
2 Trolling Jerks, Becoming An Icon
One more reason seeing Thompson as Valkyrie is one of the coolest castings in any comic book adaptation ever? It more likely than not, cheeses off plenty of people throughout parts of the world that still remain close-minded to just about every box Ms. Tessa checks off with Valkyrie’s Dragonfang – she’s black, she’s Latino, she’s bi, and she’s a she.
According to Soraya Nadia McDonald’s article for theUndeafeated.com, which came out shortly before Ragnarok did, explained that some people who would disagree with just about everything the character (and more likely than not, Tessa) believes in just makes their skin crawl. Some of these people have adopted Odinism, feeling that having Tessa take up the sword makes Christianity look bad – imagine their surprise when the most badass character in a movie based on a comic book that was based on Norse mythology is now played by someone as beautiful as her.
Too bad for these folks – Tessa is here to stay and hopefully, she’ll continue to be every bit the warrior that her compatriots like Thor and Hulk are in the upcoming Infinity War.
1 Pushing For A Female Marvel Movie
Marvel comic book movies started out very, very poorly. Early movies like The Punisher in the late eighties are a prime example of how NOT to adapt source material. Then came Blade and The X-Men, and the world started to take notice that there might be more money to be made with these characters than just DC’s Superman and Batman.
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemworth, Chris Evans, and Chris Pratt; and a whole host of other actors have done a lot for the genre and have delivered some phenomenal movies: Ragnarok, Guardians Vol. I, and Winter Soldier are among some of the best action movies of the past decade. But it’s time for these guys to step aside.
That’s what Marvel’s Phase Four will be correcting. According to Thompson, she confronted Marvel Studio’s head honcho, Kevin Feige about the idea of an all-female superhero movie. “What if there was a movie with some female superheroes?...like all of them?” She asked Feige. According to Kevin, that reality will happen soon enough.
Thankfully, the comics imprint already has plenty of source material for this movie – The Lady Liberators, featuring Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Wasp, and Valkyrie; all who have appeared in Marvel Studio productions; first appeared in Avengers # 83 back in 1970.