‘Creed’s’ Tessa Thompson on Joining the ‘Rocky’ Franchise and Singing in the Film

Tessa Thompson on Her Role in
steven taylor for Variety

Tessa Thompson turned heads as the lead in the indie satire “Dear White People.” After a small role in Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” the actress broadens her horizons in Ryan Coogler’s “Creed,” in which she also sings. Thompson shared how the upcoming reboot breathes new life into the “Rocky” franchise.

How do you relate to your character?

Bianca is an aspiring singer. She reluctantly, I think, falls in love with Michael B. Jordan’s character, who is the offspring of Apollo Creed. We were interested in what it means for young people pursuing their own dreams and having a relationship.

How does “Creed” differ from previous “Rocky” films? 

The movie definitely brings a new kind of audience into the franchise. In this film, Philadelphia is a character in the movie. It’s also a part of Philadelphia that we’ve never seen. Ryan Coogler is into the stories that he writes, like what it means to be a young black man in this country. It’s tremendous to get to work with someone who has a specific stake in a story, and isn’t afraid to tell it.

You write and perform original music in “Creed.”

I’ve been in this band (Caught a Ghost) for about two and a half years. When I was auditioning for “Creed,” Ryan told me they were interested in casting a musician. I convinced him that it should be me, and (later) he called and asked me to be in the studio with a composer and producer. To work on such a deadline and write these songs specifically for the movie is really a unique challenge that at various moments was frightening and really fun.

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