Thursday, October 6, 2022

Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga Explore ‘Joy and Safety’ of Colorism in Neflix Drama ‘Passing’

Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga Passing
Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga star in Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut, ‘Passing’

*We reproted earlier that Tessa Thompson was ‘really terrified’ to tackle the role of Irene in Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut “Passing,” based on Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel of the same name. 

“Passing” follows two former childhood friends — Irene and Claire, played by Thompson and Ruth Negga. The duo, who pass for white, reconnect as adults and become obsessed with each other’s lives. 

On screen, “there’s this tension of us really being very different,” Thompson says in a new interview with USA Today. “There’s a kind of restraint that Irene has and the kind of vivacious, live-wire spirit that (Clare has).”

The heart of the film is “about the real and perceived joy and safety (especially for a Black woman passing as white) that accompanies it, Negga says,” the outlet writes. 

READ MORE: Tessa Thompson Admits She Was ‘Really Terrified’ to Deep Dive Into New Racial Film ‘Passing’ [VIDEO]

Safety is “always there, haunting every move they make. And it’s still the reality for a lot of people,” says Negga, who is Irish and Ethiopian. Thompson is Afro-Latina. The stars hope their film sparks wider discussions about the power of race and colorism.

“I think our film certainly shows the ways in which racism, the construct and the ways in which it binds us is quite silly. I wish I had known that as a kid,” Thompson says, adding, “I had a lot of conflicted and confusing feelings around race,” 

When it comes to questions about colorism, Negga points out: “It’s funny how we’re the only people who ever get asked about it. … We have to solve a problem that has been directed at us, and that always irritates me.

She continues, “If there’s going to be allyship, then the allyship needs to be in the discussion and conversation as well. (It) can’t just be left up to one or two people who have a platform at a particular time.”

“I want to then try to be one of those people that wields power. … I want to have a slate of projects inside of my production company that speak to the brilliance and beauty of Black women,” Thompson says.

“There is a real question (of) if you know something is rotten, what responsibility do we have to just say, ‘No, I won’t. I won’t play that part’? Because you’re erasing someone that is better suited. And I think that is valid.”

“Passing” is now streaming on Netflix.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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