Tessa Thompson is talking about race in Hollywood, particularly how having a light skin tone is beneficial when nabbing acting gigs. The 32-year-old actress most recently starred in last year’s Creed and she’s tackling criticism over being cast in the movie because of her fair hue.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, the star says she does not believe she gets roles because she’s “more palatable” for white audiences.
“I remember reading some idea that I had been cast in Creed because I’m light-skinned,” she said. “That idea — that I’m in a position because Hollywood is so racist, I get parts because I’m more palatable — it’s not that I’m uncomfortable confronting the validity of that, it’s that I also feel—I have a hard time with that. Because I just don’t think it’s true.”
But Thompson does acknowledge the existence of colorism in Hollywood. She posted a black-and-white image on Instagram Friday which said, “colorism in Hollywood is real. Privilege and merit can co-exist. One can work in a system and be wary of its trappings.”
Many believe colorism contributed to Zoe Saldana’s casting as singer Nina Simone in the biopic Nina, which was released earlier this year to no acclaim. Atlant Black Star reported the actress was slammed for her portrayal of the political music icon and activist, as the star not only donned blackface for the role but also reportedly wore a prosthetic nose.
Thompson said Saldana would not have been top of mind for the part of the dark-skinned High Priestess of Soul.
“I’m not sure she would have been the first person that I would have thought of to play Nina,” she said to BuzzFeed. “To me, Nina is someone that was so seamless, she couldn’t separate her politics from her work. She was an artist that said to us, ‘How could you not reflect the times that we live in?’ And that’s not something that I’ve necessarily seen in Zoe’s work in the same way.”