Tessa Thompson Will Play Janelle Monáe’s Love Interest in Dirty Computer Visual Album

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Tessa Thompson and Janelle Monáe. Photo: Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Essence

Janelle Monáe says that Prince’s death inspired to set aside her Cindi Mayweather persona — the protagonist of her previous studio albums — and present her fans with a fuller portrait of her identity on her new album. Dirty Computer, she told the New York Times in a new profile, will introduce fans to herself, without the android metaphors. “Right now I’m escaping the gravity of the labels that people have tried to place on me that have stopped my evolution,” she told the Times. “You have to go ahead and soar, and not be afraid to jump — and I’m jumping right now.” One aspect of that: Dirty Computer’s 50-minute film (Monáe calls it an “emotion picture”) about star-crossed lovers in a authoritarian government. The lovers will be played by Monáe and Tessa Thompson, who frequently appears in her music videos.

When Times reporter Jenna Wortham asked about Monáe and Thompson’s relationship, and rumors about them dating, Monáe deflected. “I want it to be very clear that I’m an advocate for women,” she said. “I’m a girl’s girl, meaning I support women no matter what they choose to do. I’m proud when everybody is taking agency over their image and their bodies.” Wortham presses her a bit more on the topic:

I asked Monáe what she thought of the internet’s speculation about her romantic relationship with Thompson. Watching her as she decided on a response was like watching a mathematician working out Fermat’s Last Theorem. Gears were churning; calculations were being made. Finally, she laughed, raised her eyebrows and deflected: “I hope people feel celebrated,” she said. “I hope they feel love. I hope they feel seen.” It was late into the evening, and I was conscious of how long we’d been talking — at least two hours — and let it drop. But the issue lingered for me, especially the more times I watched her film.

Dirty Computer — in all its “Pynk” pussy power glory — will be released April 27.

Tessa Thompson and Janelle Monáe Play Lovers in Visual Album