‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ Star Tessa Thompson on Representation and More

Tessa Thompson returns as King Valkyrie in Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder. The film premieres in theaters on July 8.

In Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder, the God of Thunder embarks on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced — one of self-discovery. But his efforts are interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher, who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thorenlists the help of King Valkyrie, Korg and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster, who — to Thor’s surprise — inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they venture out on a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late.  

We had an amazing conversation about what impact she hopes to have on those who feel seen through her and her work, seeing fans dressed as Valkyrie, her own movie-watching experience, bringing LGBTQ+ representation to the MCU, and much more. Keep reading for our full discussion!

©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Hi Tessa, I am a huge fan of you and your work. It’s such an honor to speak with you. Thank you for taking the time.
Tessa Thompson: Oh gosh, that’s so sweet. Hey, Sophia!

I’m Latina and seeing you on my screen as such a badass superhero means the absolute world to me. I’ve been a fan of Marvel since I was eight years old and Valkyrie is the first time I felt seen with these films. So I wanted to ask you, what impact do you hope this character has on those who have followed her journey and relate to her in some way?
Oh, that’s really sweet. Well, I think exactly what you said, like, I grew up as a fan of watching so many films, animated movies, and so many things as a kid, but not always seeing myself necessarily reflected. It really hit me last night, not that it hadn’t dawned on me before, but it was just a reminder last night of being at the premiere and seeing so many fans outside in cosplay, particularly a lot of young girls, and thinking around like, maybe for some of them, it was the first time that they got to dress up as a character that they felt like they immediately could embody, in a way.

I found myself feeling really emotional because I’m also from LA and so it was a really big deal. Our premiere was on Hollywood Boulevard and there’s the Mann’s Chinese and the Egyptian, and it was a really big deal when I could go to movies at either of those theaters when I was a kid. I was thinking of the number of times that I ever did that and saw reflection of myself on screen, I can’t even remember. So to then be at the premiere, be seeing all these women outside, be realizing that I’m that person that’s going to be on screen like — okay, it’s making me emotional now but yeah, it means a lot to me.

You just led me into my next question perfectly, because I saw a video of you going up to a fan dressed as Valkyrie and I wanted to know what it means to you to have people dress up as your character?
It’s really overwhelming and really, really cool. It really is. It means everything to me, we were driving up to the premiere, all of my family and my friends, and there was a woman who was wearing her braids and she was walking around as Valkyrie. I don’t know why, I sort of like forgot that that would happen. I don’t know, I hadn’t thought about it and then found myself really emotional as I was like, seeing it happen. Then also there was this man who was dressed as Thor and had his big Afro, and then that was also so cool, too. I was like, “oh right, we can invest in characters that also don’t look like us,” right? And that we can look, no matter at the gender expression or the race, that we could look at the soul of a character, the humanity of a character, and feel seen inside of them too, and to me, that’s like the power of cinema. That’s why I love this job so much. I loved movies before I ever dreamed that I could be in them because they made me feel less alone, and so I think in going to the premiere last night and seeing all different kinds of people invest in these characters I was like, “oh, yeah, we’re not alone, we’re all just big nerds looking to connect, be loved, and feel seen.”

Tessa Thompson as King Valkyrie in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

I love how you mentioned that you went with your family to the premiere because these are movies that my dad and I bond over. He’s the one that took me to see Iron Man in theaters and we haven’t missed a movie since. This really is a movie that all generations can enjoy and go see together.
Yeah, it’s interesting, because I’ve made all sorts of movies and I feel really lucky. I like making work that’s really challenging, but there is something special — I don’t have kids yet, so many of my co-stars in this film do and they all have expressed this thing where they feel really excited about making a film finally that their kids care about because, of course, it’s like you do your job and you work so hard at it, the idea that you could do work that also is meaningful to the people that mean the most to you is impactful. I think about all of my early movie-watching experiences where I was taking in those images before I understood that I would maybe one day want to grow up and make movies, they were all with my family. The times that made me feel more connected to my humanity, it was with the people that had made me and so that felt really special last night, being at the premiere and seeing everyone with their families, watching the movie, and not just my classmates but all the folks that made it, the producers and everyone else that worked on the film there with their family, especially if we got high reviews from their kids. I’m like, “yeah, we did something good then.”

It’s also a real joy to be speaking with you during Pride Month because you represent the LGBTQ+ community with Valkyrie, who is openly queer in canon, which I am so happy about. How does it feel to bring that representation to the MCU?
Yeah, it means a lot. I think it means something to say that outwardly because it is canon. There’s actually so many queer characters that are canon in the comic books, which is exciting, and I also think that there’s something really special actually about not having her sexual orientation define her. I think sometimes there’s this inclination in film that we think like representation means that that has to be the totality of the human and in a way, I think that diminishes the breadth and the scope of their humanity because we know, you can be queer inside of being all sorts of other things. So there were lots of facets of Valkyrie’s humanity that felt important to explore in the context of this, and if we had just squarely made, for the sake of representation, her storyline only about her love life, I think that actually would have done a disservice to the character and also a disservice to the queer community. That’s really how I felt in the conversations that I had with Marvel and with Taika. I can’t be the ambassador for a whole community, but I felt grateful that they really took in what I had to say and what I thought.

There are so many new young female characters joining the MCU, which I’m so thrilled to see. Who would you want King Valkyrie to sort of mentor and team up with?
Oh, that’s a really cool idea. I mean, to mentor, I don’t know — I mean, the truth is, I think she could still use some mentoring. I think a sort of mutual mentorship between a character could be interesting. Ms. Marvel is someone that could be interesting. I think they would have some fun hanging out together, getting to know each other, and learning from each other.

(L-R): Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Natalie Portman as Mighty Thor in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Fans are naturally so excited for King Valkyrie and the Mighty Thor to team up and add that new dynamic. What did you enjoy most about bringing that to life and showing this strong female relationship? It’s so crucial in films like this.
I really enjoyed everything about it, also because it was such a great pleasure in that with Natalie, it felt like an actual extension of the relationship that we already have. We became friends working on a film and then we later became even better friends in working around equity and parity inside of the industry, and really looking at some of the systems inside of our industry and all industries that inhibit women from having equal rights, equal pay, and equal opportunity and access to opportunity. So, to me, she really is like a real-life superhero in the ways that I’ve seen her both big and small, in ways that are not publicized, the way that she really uses her platform, her power, and her advocacy. So it felt really special to get to then make this thing where we get to hang out, we get to really be representatives of strong and dynamic women because I know that to be true of her in general. I know that our sisterhood is something that is really unique and true, and so to get to present that on-screen and then also just to have fun together in Australia, be in the gym, be complaining, be hanging out, talking, cracking jokes, making fun of Chris, and all those things. It’s just so fun.

Speaking of Chris, Thor and Valkyrie also have such an amazing relationship. Do you have a favorite scene between them from past movies? Can you tease your favorite moment for them in Thor: Love and Thunder without giving too much away?
Yeah, there’s a great — I like so many of our scenes in Ragnarok, but one occurs to me because, for some reason, I think something else I was doing for press, an image of this came up, but there’s a scene when we’re talking and it’s when we’re adversaries, we’re not yet friends in the movie. He’s challenging me and I put up one little dagger to his throat, and he like gently puts it down, I put up another one and he puts it down, and it felt like a very like Tom and Jerry, like, there’s a kind of physicality and antagonistic quality to their friendship where you can sense already that they kind of like each other. They have this kind of chemistry and it expresses itself in anger at first, but you sense underneath it that they just actually like each other and they’re destined to be friends.

Then I think in this one is like really capturing, and this isn’t even a spoiler, but when we first see each other in this, we have a very quick exchange, and I say, “Welcome back.” It really truly felt that way because it had been a minute since we made this, Chris and I made another film, so we’ve worked together, but it really is when we have the chance to get to be in each other’s company again, we’re really like, “Hey, good to see you. Welcome back, missed you,” and sincerely mean that. So I think those moments of sort of life, you know, the lines between life and art and story, when they blur and you get to just like actually say to a friend like, “Hey, miss you,” or like, “don’t die, love you.” They never say I love you because they can and it’s kind of the nature of our friendship, too. We love each other a great deal and the way that we express it is just mostly by making fun of each other.

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