Tessa Thompson doesn’t want to talk about who she’s wearing. That’s great, because I don’t want to ask. “I’m very conscious of it now, because when you do interviews — especially if you’re a woman — people talk about what you’re wearing,” the actress, promoting the “Rocky” spinoff “Creed,” says. But it’s not so clear-cut. “Truthfully, you’re given these garments that people spend a lot of time and energy making. They really want you to talk about them, because it’s their lifeline. So it’s odd. You’re like, ‘Don’t ask me about that, but,’” and then she namedrops a very famous designer I should know but don’t.
Not talking about clothes means more time to talk about the work, and about “Creed,” in which she plays Bianca, a musician who falls for Michael B. Jordan’s aspiring boxer Adonis, the secret son of the deceased pugilist Apollo Creed. Bianca’s not just a typical love interest but someone with her own life and ambitions. And the actress — of “Veronica Mars,” “Selma” and “Dear White People,” in which she played serious-sarcastic activist Sam — was given a lot of agency, including cowriting the electronic music she plays. (Thompson also plays in the band Caught a Ghost.)
You got to spend some time in Philadelphia before the shoot to learn about Bianca. How did the city help inform her?
She’s this patchwork of a lot of different areas and parts of Philadelphia. It meant I got to know the city in a very specific way. I was looking for points of reference. I was looking for somebody who felt like Bianca or would have been her friends. I went to a health food store and had this conversation with this guy. I assumed he wasn’t from Philly. But he said he was Philly-born and –raised. I asked, “Where in Philly?” He said, “North Philly.” I was surprised, because I had hung out in North Philly, and he seemed nothing like what I saw. He said he went to a Quaker school. I decided Bianca went to a Quaker school. She has this appetite for experimental music, and I think that’s where it came from.
I think we’re becoming more and more open to the idea of being made of many influences, not just defined by one thing.
That’s very quickly becoming the norm, culturally. But it’s not necessarily being reflected in media. You don’t see many characters who feel like that seamless patchwork, that are coming from different points of view, that blur the lines of gender or race or what have you. It’s exciting to create characters like that. It’s so cool to have young people come up to me and say they relate to that, that they got to see parts of themselves on screen.