On July 1, Tessa Thompson opened up about the importance of racial diversity and LGBTQ+ representation in film during an interview with Ramy star Ramy Youssef, as part of Variety’s annual Actors on Actors conversation series. Thompson stars in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Valkyrie, the franchise’s first confirmed LGBTQ+ superhero. As the MCU continues to add on to its impressive film count, Thompson says the cast and crew are opening up the conversation about what kinds of representation they hope to see on screen.
“The truth is these movies travel globally in such huge ways, and if you can represent people that are of color, if you can represent people with disabilities, if you can represent the LGBTQIA community inside of these films, it’s a pretty big deal,” Thompson said. The actor also said that she would like to see more accurate representation of different races on screen and more people of color cast in roles across all platforms, so as not to place the responsibility of representing an entire race on the shoulders of a select few.
“I want for us to be able to exist in ways that we’ve never existed before.”
“There is a real feeling of responsibility when you’re the only one,” she said. “There’s this burden of being exceptional. While I think you [Ramy] are exceptional and I hope I’m exceptional, too, I don’t think we should be the only ones. The work that we do should be inside a diversity of ideas around our identity because Muslims are not a monolith, and neither are Black people.”
Thompson added that she tries not to feel like an ambassador for all Black women because every individual has different experiences and a different perspective. “You look at the way that Black and brown people are portrayed in the media, and there’s a sameness – we’re obsessed with watching Black pain and Black and brown criminality,” she said. “I want for us to be able to exist in ways that we’ve never existed before.”
Thompson went on to say that she hopes an increase in the amount of diversity and representation in films will have a positive impact on future generations of superhero fans who see themselves represented on screen. “I think it’s really important for everybody, but for young people especially, to be able to show up to those movies and see projections of themselves,” Thompson said. “So I’m really excited that we’re able to continue to push the bounds of that and that I’m able to do that with Valkyrie. Because there’s so many cool queer characters in the comic books, and they should have a place on screen.” Watch Thompson and Youssef’s full interview here to see them discuss cultural change and how they present themselves on screen.