Tessa Thompson is a scene-stealing star on the rise.
The Los Angeles-born actress, 34, got her start on TV’s Veronica Mars and has since gained attention for her memorable performances in Dear White People, Selma, Creed and HBO’s Westworld. Now Thompson is getting rave reviews for her role as badass warrior Valkyrie in Marvel’s hit Thor: Ragnarok.
Here are five things you need to know about her.
She caught the acting bug early
As a child growing up in L.A., Thompson told PEOPLE she would “write and direct these little movies with my father, so it was something that was always in me.” Thompson said she looks to fellow Marvel actors like Tilda Swinton for inspiration. “She’s been able to stretch the parameters of what it is to be a woman in Hollywood,” Thompson said. “That’s something I’m interested in.”
She’s vocal about diversity and equal representation in Hollywood — and has no time for trolls
Thompson recently recalled to reporters her reaction to a particularly ignorant Internet comment: “I remember someone online saying something like, ‘You know, Tessa Thompson playing Valkyrie is white genocide,’” she remembered. “I just figured this thing that I’m tasked to do with any character that has its own iconography is to capture the spirit of the character, and I think the spirit of all of us, at the risk of sounding, you know, cheesy, has very little to do with what color we are. So I just didn’t really invest in that.”
She had to master the art of “cape-handling” for her role in Ragnarok
Rocking a superhero cape “is oddly way harder than you would think,” she said. “Because we’re so often working with a wind machine it smacks you in the face, you trip on it constantly, and if you happen to be wielding a sword which I obviously do in the film, it gets stuck on it constantly. Also, learning how and when to go to the bathroom in a superhero costume is very specific. I’m not sure that that is a skill that is applicable elsewhere but it is a steep learning curve and at the end month five I really got that.”
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She blames costar Jeff Golblum for making her break character
When asked which cast member was most likely to mess up a take, Thompson outed herself. “I have to be honest, that was me. I was like Ryan Gosling on SNL,” she said with a laugh. “I was breaking a lot and opposite kind of everyone. Also, Mark Ruffalo is a close second I would say. But Jeff Goldblum is the one that made everyone break the most. He just has such a wild imagination. He goes everywhere and then somehow brings it back around, it’s kind of astonishing to watch him improvise because you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s all in your head? How?'”
She can keep a secret — and can’t say anything about Westworld season 2
“You talk about this cloak of secrecy that Marvel has, and I kid you not, the Westworld cloak is far more intense which is exciting,” she told reporters. “We found in the first season that sometimes ignorance is bliss. It keeps us on a path and it is exciting for us to watch the show unfold as we get the new scripts as it is for the audience to watch the final product.”
So what is her character Charlotte up to next season?
“I honestly don’t know but I will say thus far with what I’ve shot so far, she is in true Charlotte fashion shaking things up,” she admitted. “That I can say.”
Thor: Ragnarok is now in theaters.