A longtime companion and lover of Duncan MacLeod, Tessa remained a deep part of the Highlander's life long after her tragic murder by a street junkie.
Tessa Noël is a central character, who appeared in every episode of the first season of Highlander: The Series, and in the first four episodes of the second. After the character's death, she later returned for cameo appearances in the episodes "Counterfeit Part Two" in the second season, and "To Be" and "Not To Be", the sixth season's final two episodes.
Tessa was born on August 28, 1958 in Lille, France. When she was seven years old, she fell in love for the first time with then-nineteen year old Alan Rothwood (Anthony Head). Tessa recalls in "Nowhere To Run" that she was "heartbroken" when he completed his studies and left the country. She remembered that at her first Christmas party in the ballroom of Alan's house, she "couldn't believe anything could be so beautiful." Tessa mentions in "See No Evil" that she was educated at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.
Tessa's first encounter with MacLeod is shown in a flashback sequence in "For Evil's Sake". She had recently left the Sorbonne and was working as an artist and conducting tours of the River Seine in Paris. In May 1980, to escape Immortal Christoph Kuyler (Peter Howitt) who was trying to behead him, MacLeod jumped on a Bateau Mouche on which Tessa was working, and charmed her so that he could stay on board. Another flashback scene in the episode "Counterfeit Part Two" shows how MacLeod revealed his immortality to Tessa. On April 1, 1983, MacLeod made Tessa shoot him in the chest with a pistol. After he revived, MacLeod revealed himself to be an Immortal who could not age or father children, but did not mention the Game. MacLeod expected Tessa to show disgust or fear, but instead Tessa expressed compassion and sadness for his loneliness. As Tessa remains unaware of the Game, MacLeod occasionally fights other Immortals without her knowledge.
When the series begins, Tessa and MacLeod have been in a relationship for twelve years and are the proprietors of an antiques store, "MacLeod and Noel's Antiques", in the fictional city of Seacouver, Washington, United States. Immortals Slan Quince (Richard Moll) and Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) break into their store, making Tessa aware of the Game. When she learns of this ultimate battle of good and evil, in which Duncan MacLeod must behead or be beheaded, she sarcastically remarks; "And you didn't think it was important enough to mention." When Quince threatens Tessa to distract MacLeod, she first wants to flee with MacLeod, who prepared for her departure and beheads Quince. Aware that other Immortals will challenge MacLeod, Tessa decides to stay with him. They also allow Richie Ryan (Stan Kirsch), a quick-talking petty thief and street punk, to live with them because he was aware of MacLeod's immortality. "See No Evil" indicates that Tessa was educated at the Sorbonne in Paris in "Eyewitness" (1993), Tessa witnesses the brutal murder of former artist Anne Wheeler, played by Diana Barrington, and reacts angrily when she realizes that the police will do nothing about it, saying: "I'm not hysterical, I don't see things, and I'm not looking for attention. I just want something to be done." She decides to find the murderer on her own. When MacLeod tells Tessa that she is stronger than Anne, and that if something happened to him she would be fine, Tessa retorts, "You only think so because it suits you." The murderer is Chief Police Officer Andrew Ballin (Tom Butler) who is beheaded by MacLeod after Ballin failed to kill Tessa.
In "Band of Brothers" (1993), Tessa is chosen as the curator of a traveling exhibition entitled "An historical retrospective on sculpture and form", which is based in Paris, France. Meanwhile, Immortal Grayson (James Horan) is seeking Victor Paulus, a protegee of MacLeod's friend Darius (Werner Stocker). Tessa decides to leave to Paris before MacLeod fights Grayson and her parting words are: "Remember. Paris is our city. I'll be waiting for you". After MacLeod beheads Grayson, he, Tessa and Richie, live in a barge on the Seine near Notre Dame de Paris.
In "Avenging Angel" (1993), MacLeod and Tessa search for information about newborn Immortal Alfred Cahill (Martin Kemp). Becoming Immortal has made Cahill insane; he believes he is an angel sent by God to free the world from sin. Cahill starts with the last prostitute he met, Tessa's old friend, Elaine Trent (Sandra Nelson). Tessa is angry to learn the fate of her intelligent, beautiful friend, but later realizes that she "[sounds] like her judge and jury." MacLeod believes that the only way to stop Cahill is to behead him, despite Tessa's opinion that "Enlightened societies don't kill their insane. They treat them." When Cahill comes to the barge looking for MacLeod and finds Tessa alone, Tessa diverts him by welcoming Cahill as a messenger of God. Later, she tells MacLeod with disgust, "I had to crawl inside his head... I had to think like him... I had to become like him."
The first episode of the second season, "The Watchers" (1993), shows Tessa, MacLeod and Richie settling back to their antiques store in Seacouver and meeting the Watchers, a secret society that observes Immortals without interfering. In "The Darkness" (1993), Tessa meets a fortune teller named Greta (Traci Lords) who urges her to flee the city. This reminds MacLeod of another fortune teller, who, back in 1848, predicted that he would bury many women, but marries none. MacLeod impulsively asks Tessa to marry him, to which she agrees. The next day, Tessa is abducted by Pallin Wolf (Andrew Jackson), a renegade Watcher who wants to behead MacLeod. In the meantime, MacLeod tells Richie that he is getting married because of the thought of losing Tessa. Tessa holds her ground in front of Wolf and tries to escape, but Wolf brings her back to her cell. MacLeod finally finds them and kills Wolf, then sends Tessa home with Richie. On their way to the car, Tessa and Richie are shot dead by Marc Roszca (Travis MacDonald), a drug addict wanting their money. Richie's previously unknown immortality is revealed when he returns to life on the spot, but Tessa dies. MacLeod, devastated, leaves their home and sells the antique store.
"Eye For An Eye" (1993) shows the aftermath of Tessa's death. MacLeod tells Richie, "She was part of our lives, Richie. Never pretend she wasn't." MacLeod also advises Richie to get used to her loss, because it "won't be the last time it happens to you." Later, while MacLeod trains Richie roughly so that he can face Immortal Annie Devlin (Sheena Easton), Richie angrily tells MacLeod, "You can't get past it, Mac. I know. You've seen a lot of people die. But you had to be the hero, you sent us out to the car that night, you could have been there ...You look me in the eyes and you tell me you don't blame yourself for her death." Some time later, MacLeod bitterly tells Devlin, "Nothing you do brings anyone back. Once they're dead... nothing."
In the two-part finale to series two, "Counterfeit" (1994), James Horton (Peter Hudson), a renegade Watcher who believes all Immortals must be eliminated, uses killer Lisa Halle (Meilani Paul) to try and kill MacLeod. Lisa undergoes plastic surgery to resemble Tessa and therefore is played by Vandernoot from that point on. MacLeod meets Lisa just after he admitted to himself how much he missed Tessa, and he is stunned by her resemblance with Tessa. Despite knowing that Tessa is dead and cannot return, he eagerly pursues a relationship with Lisa. He eventually admits the truth when he discovers a scar on Lisa's jaw. Horton kills Lisa on Tessa's grave before being himself killed by MacLeod.
"To Be" and "Not To Be" (1998), the series finale, respectively depict MacLeod dreaming of a world in which he was never born. Vandernoot reprises her role as Tessa, this time never having met MacLeod. Tessa leads an unsatisfactory life in which she has a husband and children, but is forced to sacrifice her art and sculpture. In this storyline she has an affair with MacLeod but feels she has betrayed her husband.
Vandernoot found Tessa's personality "...very nice," "very understanding, generous, supportive." MacLeod appreciates that Tessa always has a way of reminding him of his humanity. In "For Evil's Sake", she tells a guilt-ridden MacLeod that "You may be Immortal, but you're not omnipotent... The world is not your responsibility." Tessa often jokes about MacLeod's immortality, for example telling him in "For Tomorrow We Die" that the last time MacLeod "...wore a tuxedo was on the deck of the Titanic." "Counterfeit Part Two" was partially filmed at the Musee Rodin in ParisTessa is able to empathise with others, feel as they do, think as they do and so become like them. When MacLeod revealed his immortality to Tessa in "Counterfeit Part Two", she can show compassion instead of the fear or disgust he expects: "I was just thinking how lonely you must be. Your parents, your friends... having them all die." Tessa is a very empathic and understanding character, for example, in "Saving Grace", she is jealous of MacLeod's former lover Grace; however, when MacLeod assures her that he no longer loves Grace, her response is simply that "...that's all that need to be said. She's your friend and she's been hurt. You'll help her. I'd expect you to do no less."
Furthermore, Tessa demonstrates great courage, for example in "Mountain Men", where she is abducted by three mountain men led by Immortal Caleb Cole, who wants to marry her. Tessa refuses to submit and spreads doubt among them, resulting in Cole finally killing one of his own men before MacLeod rescues her. Reviewer Rob Lineberger of DVDVerdict.com commented that "...this episode shows the tough stuff Tessa is made of." Tessa is a very selfless character, although it has, occasionally, been known to put her into rather sticky situations, for example, in the episode "See No Evil", Tessa's friend, Natalie, is attacked by serial killer Michael Tanovsky and Tessa uses herself as bait: "Nobody's watching over his next victim, Duncan... and she's going to die if you and I don't stop him." Lineberger commented that "[in "See No Evil"], Tessa gets a taste for how Duncan's life must feel when she faces the killer." She hits Tanovsky with her car, telling MacLeod "I thought ridding the world of evil would feel better than this." Panzer comments that having Tessa stop the killer "...was kind of an unusual idea [in television in 1992], and this was the subject of a lot of meetings with [then-supervising producer] David Abramowitz, myself and the people from the various networks, domestic and foreign, who were involved." Tessa has a reputation for speaking frankly and for refusing to tolerate any nonsense. In "Innocent Man", when MacLeod refuses to take her where an evil Immortal is, she says, "I know why you don't want me there. You're afraid that what happened to Lucas [MacLeod's friend who has just been beheaded] could happen to you." Tessa has no self-pity and "...doesn't like euphemisms". For example, in "For Tomorrow We Die", MacLeod calls her "contrary by nature" Tessa parks her car without regard to interdictions, can drive a speedboat, is a poor chess player and dislikes war.