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Emma Thompson's adopted son realized his mom was famous during class on Shakespeare: 'I had no idea'

Thompson and Tindy first met at a Christmas celebration at the Refugee Council when he was 16 years old.

Emma Thompson's adopted son realized his mom was famous during class on Shakespeare: 'I had no idea'
Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Staff

Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 14, 2022. It has since been updated.

Emma Thompson often talks about parenthood and the lessons she has learned from her kids. In an interview with New Yorker, Thompson shared a hilarious anecdote about her son Tindyebwa Agaba Wise, a Rwandan refugee Thomson adopted back in 2003. Tindyebwa, who also goes by Tindy, didn't know the extent of his mother's popularity until over a year after meeting her. In 2004, Tindy was taking a Shakespeare course at City and Islington College, when his teacher had shown the class Kenneth Branagh's "Much Ado About Nothing." He was "absolutely shocked" to see so many recognizable faces on television, including Thompson herself, not to mention her mother Phyllida Law and actress Imelda Staunton. 


“I went to my teacher and said, ‘How was this film made? Because I know these people,’” he recalls saying to his teacher. The teacher apparently laughed it off and said, “Don’t be ridiculous. These are famous actors.” Tindy shared that his teacher “couldn’t believe a word I was saying.” The following week, his teacher brought in a copy of the Daily Mirror and inquired if it was him in the picture leaving Thompson's house on a bike. “That was how I got to know that my mother was somehow well known. I had no idea,” admitted Tindy. Tindy obtained British citizenship in 2009 and is now married to He Zhang. He has worked as a detective in London's Criminal Investigation Division and has a Master's degree in human rights law. He's spent over a decade working for human rights activism.



Thompson opened up about the first encounter with Tindy that ended up turning into one of the most significant relationships in her life. In 2003, Tindy, who was 16 at the time, met Thompson at a Christmas celebration at the Refugee Council, a patron organization for Thompson that helps refugees and asylum seekers.

Although he only spoke a few words of English and French, he wanted to thank Thompson for the hot dinner. He had been sleeping outside near London's Trafalgar Square because of an error with his application for government assistance. “His spirit was there to be seen—so clearly—in his eyes. He was alive to everything, though at the same time silent,” Thompson recalled of their mostly visual conversation. She added, “He saw something in me he wanted to talk to.”



When Tindy met the actress and her husband, he recalled feeling that he “didn’t have anything to give” to Thompson and Wise. “What hasn’t he given!” Thompson disagreed with Tindy, vehemently. “So much joy, so much insight to share in his empathy and his understanding of the world. We laugh—and he helps me to laugh—at the weirdness of people, at the strangeness of life, at its cruelties and absurdities. It’s such a comfort.”

Thompson gives Tindy credit for her own personal transformation, claiming that he has “been part of the healing.” She said, “I’ve been told I was a fierce and restless octopus. But they have three hearts and only live for two years. So now I’m in search of a more peaceful existence where I’m not so angry and my one heart will last a bit longer.”


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