Tessa Thompson’s nails are not her own. They belong to Bianca, her singer-songwriter alter-ego in the film Creed II, she explains, as she waggles the extravagant, pink-polished talons at me from across the table. She wrapped filming on the follow-up to 2015’s Creed yesterday, in Philadelphia. “I can’t do anything with them on, and I break them constantly,” she says. “But Bianca’s fairly close to me. She enjoys solitude, has dreams of making a mark, and she’s somebody that is cautious with her heart.” Thompson looks down at her hands. “So it’s nice to have something that’s very unlike me, as a physical transformation and anchor into her.”
After almost a decade of roles in smart but relatively small films such as For Colored Girls and Dear White People, last year Thompson, 34, was catapulted into the mainstream. On the small screen, in HBO’s big-budget drama Westworld, she plays executive villain Charlotte Hale – “A proxy for corporate greed and the ways in which corporations can totally dehumanize folks” – at the mysterious theme park, where the androids have gained sentience and are going rogue. And on the big screen, in Thor: Ragnarok, she subverted superhero stereotypes as Valkyrie – her iteration of the traditionally white, blond Norse goddess is mixed race and bisexual.
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