Tessa Thompson

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Tessa Thompson
Tessa Thompson - DSC 0109.jpg
Thompson at the 46th NAACP Image Awards Nominee Press Conference
Born Tessa Lynne Thompson
(1983-10-03) October 3, 1983 (age 32)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress, musician
Years active 2002–present

Tessa Lynne Thompson[1] (born October 3, 1983) is an American actress and musician. She played Jackie Cook on the film noir television series Veronica Mars, Nyla Adrose in the film For Colored Girls, and civil rights activist Diane Nash in Selma, and starred as Samantha White in Dear White People and Bianca in Creed.

Early life[edit]

Thompson was born in Los Angeles, California. She grew up in Los Angeles while spending summers and winters in New York, where her father, singer/songwriter Marc Anthony Thompson of the band Chocolate Genius, Inc., is based.[2] She attended Santa Monica High School and then Santa Monica College, where she studied cultural anthropology.[3]



In 2002, Thompson made her professional stage debut in Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company's production of The Tempest. In 2003, Thompson appeared as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet: Antebellum New Orleans, 1836 with The Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena, California, which earned her an NAACP Theatre Award nomination.[3]


Thompson made her first TV appearance in a 2005 episode of the CBS series Cold Case in the role of a bootlegging lesbian from the 1930s. In the same year, she rose to fame as she landed on the role of Jackie Cook on the UPN/CW neo-noir drama series Veronica Mars, starring as a series regular for the show's second season.[3][4] In 2006, she appeared on the ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy. In 2007, she was a part of the cast on the CW's short-lived drama Hidden Palms, portraying Nikki Barnes. She worked on guest star roles on Life and Private Practice, and appeared in the fourth season of Heroes. In 2010, she had a guest role as the wife of a detective on Detroit 187. In 2012, she had a guest role as Gavin Doran's daughter, Sasha, on 666 Park Avenue. In 2013, she starred in BBC America's first original series Copper.[3]


With Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan promoting Creed, November 2015.

Thompson's first feature film appearance was in the 2006 remake of the horror film When a Stranger Calls playing the role of Scarlet. Thompson was next seen opposite Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the dancing film Make it Happen in 2008.

In 2010, Thompson appeared in Tyler Perry's stage play adaptation For Colored Girls after she directly approached Perry to be cast in the film.[3] In 2014, she starred in Justin Simien's Sundance winner Dear White People, and played civil rights activist Diane Nash in Ava DuVernay's Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic Selma.[5] In 2015, she appeared in Ryan Coogler's Rocky spin-off film Creed.[4]


Thompson has produced music as part of the electro band Caught A Ghost. The band provided songs for the film Dear White People, in which she also starred.[5]



Year Title Role Notes
2006 When a Stranger Calls Scarlet
2008 Make It Happen Dana
2008 Human Contract, TheThe Human Contract Waitress
2009 Mississippi Damned Kari Peterson
2010 Everyday Black Man Claire
2010 Exquisite Corpse Liz
2010 For Colored Girls Nyla Adrose
2011 Periphery Caitlin
2011 Red & Blue Marbles Becca
2012 Murder on the 13th Floor Nia Palmer
2013 South Dakota Chris
2013 Automotive Maggie
2014 Grantham & Rose Wallis
2014 Dear White People Samantha White
2014 Selma Diane Nash
2015 Creed Bianca
2016 War on Everyone Filming
???? Salt Water Brit Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
2005 Cold Case Wilhemina "Billie" Doucette Episode: "Best Friends"
2005–2006 Veronica Mars Jackie Cook Regular role (22 episodes)
2006 Grey's Anatomy Camille Travis Episodes: "Deterioration of the Fight or Flight Response", "Losing My Religion",
2006 Initiation of Sarah, TheThe Initiation of Sarah Esme TV film
2007 Hidden Palms Nikki Barnes Main role (7 episodes)
2008 Life Liza Episode: "Trapdoor"
2009 Mental Lainey Jefferson Episode: "Lines in the Sand"
2009 Private Practice Zoe Episodes: "Yours, Mine & Ours", "Strange Bedfellows"
2009 Heroes Rebecca Taylor Episodes: "Hysterical Blindness", "Strange Attractors", "Shadowboxing"
2009 Three Rivers Penelope Kirkell Episode: "A Roll of the Dice"
2010 Betwixt Jenny TV film
2010 Blue Belle Blue Lead role (5 episodes)
2010–2011 Detroit 1-8-7 Lauren Washington Episodes: "Local Hero/Overboard", "Home Invasion/Drive-By", "Blackout"
2011 Off the Map Sydney Episode: "A Doctor Time Out"
2011 Rizzoli & Isles FBI Agent Anna Farrell Episode: "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"
2012–2013 666 Park Avenue Sasha Doran Recurring role (5 episodes)
2012–2013 Copper Sara Freeman Main role (19 episodes)


Year Award Category Work Result
2009 American Black Film Festival Best Actor Mississippi Damned Won
2011 Black Reel Awards Best Breakthrough Performance For Colored Girls Won
2014 Gotham Awards Breakthrough Actor Dear White People Won
2014 Georgia Film Critics Association Awards Breakthrough Award
2014 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Dear White People Nominated
2014 Black Reel Awards Best Actress Dear White People Nominated


  1. ^ According to the State of California. California Birth Index, 1905-1995. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California. At Ancestry.com
  2. ^ Kai (May 5, 2014). "[EXCLUSIVE] Tessa Thompson on varied dreams and effecting change". Embrace You Magazine. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Behrens, Deborah (July 11, 2012). "Tessa Thompson Returns to Shakespeare as Rosalind". @ This Stage (LA Stage Alliance). Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Zakarin, Jordan (December 30, 2014). "Tessa Thompson on 'Selma,' 'Dear White People,' and Her Breakthrough Year". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Grigg-Spall, Holly (March 24, 2015). "Tessa Thompson". Issue. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 

External links[edit]