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'Westworld' Season 4 on HBO: How Tessa Thompson, the cultural anthropology graduate, became a Hollywood star

The 38-years-old BAFTA-nominated starlet talks about being a cultural anthropology graduate when she got into acting
Tessa Thompson did not always have Hollywood dreams (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Tessa Thompson did not always have Hollywood dreams (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Fans favorite and the iconic sci-fi drama series ‘Westworld’ Season 4 made a comeback on HBO on June 26. The multiple Emmy-award winning series has been applauded by critics and has been showered with love from fans across the globe. Entertainment rags are stuffed with countless rave reviews for the show that captures a totally new and futuristic dystopian world filled with human bots within an amusement park "Westworld". These bots, who in some ways represent the evolution of what it is to be 'human', have gone through rather tumultuous emotional journeys in the past four seasons. They have all had to lose the ones they are attached to and even parts of themselves in their fight to survive. Because of this, nothing is same for them again. The series ‘Westworld’ has been adapted from an iconic 1973 film of the same name. The show has been created and conceptualized by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.

Tessa Thompson essays the character of Charlotte ‘Hale’ Halores from the first season of the Emmy award winning series. From the past four seasons till now, audiences have been witnessing an arc especially with the way her character Charlotte has been changing. The most radical change being when Charlotte's human body becomes a mere shell for one of the human-bot copies of ‘Dolores Abernathy’. As the unemotional and sly human bot 'Halores' ruthlessly uses Charlotte's identity, sitting on the board at Delos, its going to be an intriguing watch to see how her character arc will develop in ‘Westworld’ Season 4.


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Tessa Thompson has cultural anthropology degree

According to an old interview with The Guardian dated October 2018, Tessa Thompson, born and brought up in Los Angeles, took acting classes even as she studied cultural anthropology in college. Not only that, but she also interned with an all-female Shakespeare company.

But soon after the BBC America series ‘Copper’, in which she essayed a role of  former slave in 19th-century New York, she started getting typecast. Tessa said, “A lot of the parts that were coming my way were things that I’d seen before. Slave dramas, black best friends, single moms upset with their babydaddy." She turned them all down. Instead, she "decided to take a break and do some plays, and to see plays and read books and not work, literally not work until I was going to burn for something.”

Tessa Thompson broke out with ‘Dear White People’

Her first small-screen appearance was in an episode of the CBS police drama series ‘Cold Case’ back in 2005. This in return led to a series of stints on other prime-time shows like ‘Private Practice’, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘Veronica Mars’. But her true 'break out' role came after she was cast in ‘Dear White People’ (2014). Tessa garnered global recognition as an actor on the screen with rave reviews for her stellar performance in the series. Her character, a woman of color, was badass, smart, cool and confident. It was a unique character and an out-of-the-box one that audiences hadn't seen on television. Ever since, Tessa has never looked back. Talking about the casting process, Tessa said, “Those ‘badass’ roles are exciting to me because they’re very different than how I feel. I don’t wake up and move through space feeling like Valkyrie on the rainbow bridge!”


Tessa Thompson’s teenage acting dreams

The actress essayed the role of Hermia in a school production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ when she was 14. In another old interview with Gentlewoman, dated April 2020, Tessa said that she realized as a teenager that she wanted to act for a living. “The thing that really got me into acting was classical theatre. Greeks and Shakespeare, and even less classical, like Tennessee Williams and Chekhov,” she added.

It was in the year 2001 that she enrolled herself in Santa Monica college in Los Angeles to study cultural anthropology. She also continued acting as she joined in the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company. Initially, she thought she would be a stage actor in the theatre world or maybe even a Broadway star. But in her early 20s, she began auditioning for film and television roles and in 2022, she is one of Hollywood's brightest stars!