Sisterhood, sacrifice and survival are the lifeblood of Little Woods, the indie Western directed by Nia DaCosta and starring Tessa Thompson. Thompson plays Ollie, a North Dakota adoptee who is desperately attempting to regroup after being a caregiver for her recently deceased mother and serving time for trafficking drugs. She’s inches away from a new job and life in Spokane when her younger sister Deb (Lily James) introduces events that could endanger and forever alter both of their lives.
DaCosta related deeply with theme of the movie, sharing with Shadow And Act the person in her life who put her happiness on pause for the sake of family. “I can talk about my mother, who has done that for me my entire life and afforded me so many opportunities. Because of her, I haven’t had to make choices like that because she’s always been there.”
Thompson agreed: “I just remember my Mom working two jobs, being up late, driving me back and forth when I was working, driving me to plays and giving me the freedom to explore.”
But with Ollie and Deb’s mother dead in Little Woods, poverty, a criminal past and no access to adequate healthcare in rural North Dakota all conspire to force Ollie to step up and take care of the family. “With my sister, I look at her and know one day I’m gonna have a moment where I’m gonna have to throw everything away and be like, ‘I got you girl,'” DaCosta said. “Luckily, she hasn’t asked me to do anything crazy like illegally enter the country and defraud the healthcare system.”
Thompson also has sisters and said, “I think they’re the people that I can most imagine feeling ride or die about. Particularly my older sister, because we went through so many hard times financially. Mom had my sister at 19 and me at 21–she was baby. So I feel like we all sort of grew up together. Which is why I think is why I related so much to this story. It meant so much to me just in terms of relationship and that you’re born into a family, but at a certain point you have a moment where you have to continue to choose them.”
That’s the crossroads Deb and Ollie find themselves in at the beginning of Little Woods. “These sisters go through a period where they have forgotten each other and they have to choose each other again and just how powerful that is. I think that so many people can relate to that, because we go through those moments with our family–chosen or otherwise–where we have to continue to re-engage with them and stand up for them and just how powerful that is.”
Little Woods is just the beginning for DaCosta and Thompson. Both are sending shockwaves through Hollywood with their 2019 projects. DaCosta is directing Oscar winner Jordan Peele’s remake of the Black horror classic Candyman–her first studio film. Thompson, who is also starring in Avengers: End Game and Men In Black: International,was beaming with pride for her Little Woods director and friend, “Nia’s been working in the television space where it’s really hard for women. Very talented women make one feature and then go 13 years without an opportunity to make another. We’re obviously in a new space where those things are changing. You are a huge part of that change and it’s like deeply impactful,” Thompson said. DaCosta of course, couldn’t contain her excitement or accolades for Peele, “I’m so excited because on paper it’s everything I wanted to do next. Jordan as a collaborator, mentor and partner is wonderful. He’s truly wonderful and brilliant.”
Thompson’s also slated to portray famed jewel thief, Doris Payne. “We’re so used to seeing white men play charismatic characters that make bad decisions, but we root for them,” Thompson said of why she wanted to bring Payne’s story to the big screen. “There’s whole franchises based on that…all the Bond movies, Oceans 11, 12, 13 –and you don’t often get to see women at the center of those stories, particularly women of color and Doris is just fantastic.”
But until Candyman and Thompson’s projects hit theaters, you can catch Little Woods, produced by NEON and Refinery 29 in theaters nationwide on April 19th. You’ll leave grateful for the ride-or-die sisters in your life–chosen or otherwise.