Tessa Thompson graces the February 2021 cover of Town & Country, and in the accompanying story discusses her latest project, the Amazon Prime Video film “Sylvie’s Love”.
In the movie, set in 1957, she plays a member of a jazz quartet who falls in love with the group’s saxophone player (Nnamdi Asomugha) in “a sweeping story that brings together changing times, a changing culture, and the true price of love.”
As Thompson tells Town & Country, a love story featuring two Black characters is something that isn’t often depicted on screen.
“We haven’t necessarily gotten to see ourselves as the romantic leads, and when we have, particularly in period pieces, there’s less focus on the interpersonal, like how hard it is to be two humans trying to love each other,” she explains. “There’s a lot of emphasis on historical context, which is, obviously, wildly important. I was conflicted as to whether it would work, whether you could tell a story like that.”
For Thompson, 37, the role represents the latest in a string of roles that place her outside of her comfort zone. “I think that’s why I like what I do. I’ve always felt a little afraid of what happens when we get too comfortable, that we’re not growing. Maybe I’m a masochist or maybe I’m a sucker for the discomfort of the first squeak,” she added.
In the interview, she also discusses her desire to be an agent of change in Hollywood, which hasn’t always been a smooth ride. According to Thompson, “There’s invariably people in the room that have been silenced. I remember a distinct moment on set. A squeak just came out of me, I didn’t even mean for it to, and then I could see the secret little smile on some of the women around the room, and you realize that there’s a choir of wheels waiting to squeak together. It emboldens folks, and you realize you have support and you’re not squeaking just on your own behalf. You’re squeaking for everybody.”
This philosophy is evident in her new production company Viva Maude, which just struck a development deal with HBO. “That’s my favourite thing to think about, particularly in building this company. Thinking around the voices I invite into it, how I allow them to retain as much ownership over their work and their ideas as possible,” she said. “I’m really interested in trying to create a utopia. It’s imperative, because I’m curious about being able to give opportunity to folks that people might say are less experienced. A lot of people are batting a lot higher than their average because they just, frankly, haven’t been given the opportunity.”
The entire interview can be read in the February 2021 issue of Town & Country.