Tessa Lynne Thompson spent much of her childhood growing up in Los Angeles; she went to Santa Monica High School and lived in Hollywood as a teenager. When her parents separated and her father moved to Brooklyn, New York, she began spending time in NY as well.
Tessa's father, Marc Anthony Thompson, is an Afro-Panamanian musician who has a number of albums under his name. Being raised by a musician certainly ignited a passion in Tessa, and played a pivotal role in her future pursuing a career in music.
After graduating high school, Tessa studied cultural anthropology at Santa Monica College while waiting on tables in her spare time. She planned to transfer to the University of California to study law, but then she came across the Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company.
Thompson began interning and acting at the Shakespeare Company, with her first role being Ariel in "The Tempest." Her theater work paved the way for her screen career that followed: "I can sort of trace all of the early things that happened in my career to [theater]," Thompson says.
Despite enjoying early success in her acting career, Thompson’s role as a slave in the BBC America series "Copper" and constantly being offered similar roles broke her enthusiasm. She took a brief hiatus, which became a catalyst for her to find her breakthrough role.