In the past year, Tessa Thompson has starred in Sorry to Bother You, Annihilation, Thor: Ragnarok, and, now, Creed II. And next up is the Men in Black reboot. That’s a remarkable run. So remarkable that I joked to Thompson in this interview that she might be on her way to getting on a stamp someday, which then prompted Thompson to ask how easy it is to actually get on a stamp. (Truthfully, I am not an expert on stamp qualifications.)
In Creed II, Tessa Thompson returns as Bianca, an aspiring recording artist who becomes involved with a boxer named Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan). In the first movie, it was a somewhat surprisingly large arc for a movie in the Rocky franchise, but that’s big part of what made the first Creed so special. Of course, I worded that sentiment fairly awkwardly to Thompson, who then used it as a running joke throughout the interview. (Honestly, Thompson is my favorite kind of interview, someone who can take some dumb thing I said and make it hilarious.) In this sequel, Adonis Creed must now face the Dragos (I also somehow insulted the Dragos, which Thompson was also quick to point out) while in the process of starting a family of his own.
I just love these Creed movies.
Why do you think it is?
This one in particular has a theme with families. Bianca and Adonis, even the Dragos.
Yeah, it’s totally about family. That’s kind of the whole thing.
You’ve had such a big past year. It’s one of those things where if the first Creed hadn’t given you a big arc already, this time around it would be, “She’s in a lot of huge movies now, let’s expand her role.”
You’re saying if the movie sucked the first time around I would still have a significant part to play because of the movies I’ve made subsequently?
If the first Creed was a lesser movie and hadn’t serviced your character…
That’s just such a weird observation, but I suppose you’re right, although I think in part, who knows? Careers are such a funny thing, why something happens in a moment. It’s sort of material, but I do think that both me, Mike and Sly went on to make Marvel movies. I know, for example, that Kevin and Lou at Marvel were big fans of Creed. I think it probably put all of us on their radar in a new way making Creed. I would probably attribute some of the success that’s happened to Creed in some ways I’m sure.
Yeah, I worded that very awkwardly.
It was so awkward! It was such a weird backhanded, weird compliment.
Okay, let me rephrase: the first Creed was smart enough to put you in the movie and give you a big role.
I mean, I was sort of floored in the first Creed, but I think what was important to Ryan is to make a character in a boxing movie, a female character that balked convention. In our mind, it’s so funny because some people said, “Yeah, but she disappears from the third act.” For us she disappears from the third act because she willfully decides to not be in his life. Because she’s not sure that he’s good enough for her or that he’s going to be good for her life and for her trajectory. So I think to present a female character that has that much autonomy inside of a boxing movie is pretty cool and very different. Bless Adrian, she’s amazing, but you even look at what happens to her in the second movie, she’s in a coma for a good part of it.
I still find that so weird.
But now in Creed II, everything is expanded. I’m glad the Dragos are in it, but it almost doesn’t need it because the story between your character and Michael’s character, there’s so much there.
It’s another insult. Not to me though, to the Dragos.
Right, to the Dragos this time.
But it’s a good thing they’re not here to correct things and I won’t let them know. But no, I think you’re right. I mean, what I think the Creed films do so well, and obviously I’m partial, but I think they struck a really nice balance between honoring the franchise and doing things that satisfy die hard Rocky fans.
And, also, really making films that are just about this new sort of hero in Creed. I think that that’s this film splits that difference again. You know, the Drago stuff I think is really fun. All of that stuff, it’s really fun seeing all those players again if you followed the series. But if you’re really solidly just on Creed’s journey, the thing that you’re really invested in actually is his home life and his world which obviously Bianca inhabits. I love that about the films. But they should stand alone each of them, you know?
Do you feel bad now?
I shouldn’t have insulted the Dragos. Did you get to meet Dolph?
I did meet Dolph, yes. For some reason Dolph and I sometimes were in the hair and makeup trailer at the same time.
Oh, how was that?
It’s unclear why. I don’t know why, but we ended up seated next to each other quite often. It was lovely. He’s fantastic. I think it was trippy to see him. I mean, for me doing this film was trippy because I had never and Mike had never come back to do a sequel of anything. So there were definitely some surreal moments, but for him it must have been incredibly surreal.
Thirty-three years later.
Yeah, so it was just interesting to talk to him about that and sort of watch him through that process of playing this role again.
Are you going to be doing these awhile? Is there going to be a Creed 6?
I mean, in success I imagine we’ll make more. Yeah. I really love playing this character and I love working with Mike. I’ve heard some ideas for if we were to go that far with the series, where we could take it. It’s fun to sort of think about those things and imagine. Who knows? Yeah. I would certainly, I think I’d be happy to come back. Everyone’s really collaborative and cool. Even when they pitched this movie to me, to be honest, I was reticent about her being pregnant. I was sort of like, “Oh, man. She’s such a cool character. I don’t want it to be steeped in total domesticity. I want her to continue to be an artist and making music.”
That makes sense.
So we just had those conversations, and to me an absolute dealbreaker for me is if she wasn’t continuing to sing and to play music, particularly because of her progressive hearing loss. She feels like she’s on such a timetable in terms of her dreams that any distraction from that is something that she would really consider with some hesitation. So, it was with the same hesitation that I approached the idea of them beginning a family. But once we had conversations about the central theme of this film being family, it became really apparent to me that that was really the right move. But, within that, how do we continue to let her make music and have her have agency? Everyone was so responsive to hearing that from me. I’m happy to continue making these movies in that spirit.
In the last year you’ve had Sorry to Bother You, Annihilation, Thor: Ragnarok, and Creed II. That’s like “on your way to being on a stamp someday” good. Does that make sense?
No, it doesn’t make any sense. Is it that easy to get on a stamp?
Probably not, but with those four movies you’re on your way.
That’s really exciting because I really collect postcards. I really like stamps. I was just in London when we were making Men in Black and I bought all of these vintage stamps. I’m a big stamp collector, so I never thought that could be in the cards. That might be the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.
So this makes up for the awkward question before?
Yes, exactly. They just told me I have two minutes. You have two more minutes to either insult me or flatter me wildly.
If those are my only choices … I’ll try flattery I think? That sounds better?
Though I didn’t know you collected stamps. That’s fascinating.
But okay, so don’t get this wrong. I don’t have a book and I don’t know about them or anything. I just like them and I like vintage ones. They’re cool. They look cool.
Are you aware of the intense online speculation about if you’re in Avengers 4 or not?
No, I haven’t seen any of that. That’s really cool.
I’ve seen posts where people pieced together multiple Instagram stories and noting flights from London to Atlanta with Chris Hemsworth looking for clues.
Oh, man. I’ve never been so happy to be stalked. No, yeah. That’s really cool. Yeah. I love that. That’s great. I’m excited. I really loved playing Valkyrie.
It was so great because Valkyrie and Thor are equals and sparring. That movie is so good. I can watch that movie on an endless loop.
Yeah, I loved making that movie. I’m really proud of it so, you know, who knows? Marvel is such a crazy universe! I was there for the anniversary photograph and it was like every famous person you’ve ever seen and all these people that I admire and respect. Seeing them and then walking around on the lot, and people are in their costumes – you know, like half their costume is on, or they have their cape on, and they’re eating sandwiches. It’s all new to me. So many of these people – Chris, for example – they’ve been making these movies for almost a decade so they’re just used to it. For me, I feel like just a nerd. It is all so exciting to me. I never would have imagined that I would get to play in that space. It really and truly just feels like play. So who knows if I get to do it more, I’d be happy to for sure.
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.