A longtime companion and lover of Duncan MacLeod, Tessa remained a part of the Highlander's life long after her tragic murder in season two.
Tessa Noël was 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 guest appearances in the episodes Counterfeit in the second season, and To Be and Not to Be, the series finale.
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. Tessa recalled 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.
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 who was trying to kill 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 One showed 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, he 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 remained unaware of the Game, MacLeod occasionally fights other Immortals without her knowledge.
When the series began, Tessa and MacLeod had been in a relationship for twelve years and were the proprietors of an antique store, "MacLeod and Noël Antiques", in the fictional city of Seacouver, Washington. Immortals Slan Quince and Connor MacLeod broke into their store, finally making Tessa aware of the Game. When she learned of this ultimate battle of good and evil, in which Duncan MacLeod must kill or be killed, she sarcastically remarks; "And you didn't think it was important enough to mention."When Quince threatened Tessa to distract MacLeod, she first wanted to flee with MacLeod, who prepared for her departure and beheaded Quince. Aware that other Immortals will challenge MacLeod, Tessa decided to stay with him. They also allow Richie Ryan, a quick-talking petty thief and street punk, to live with them because he had discovered MacLeod's immortality.
In the episode Eyewitness, Tessa witnessed the murder of former artist, Anne Wheeler, and reacted angrily when she realized that the police could 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 decided to find the murderer on her own. When MacLeod told Tessa that she is stronger than Anne, and that if something happened to him she would be fine, Tessa retorted, "You only think so because it suits you." The murderer was Chief Police Officer Andrew Ballin, an immortal, who was beheaded by MacLeod after Ballin attempted 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 was seeking Victor Paulus, a protegee of MacLeod's friend Darius. Tessa decided to leave for Paris before MacLeod fought Grayson, her parting words were: "Remember. Paris is our city. I'll be waiting for you". After MacLeod beheaded Grayson, he, Tessa and Richie, set up housekeeping in a barge on the Seine near Notre Dame de Paris.
In Avenging Angel (1993), MacLeod and Tessa searched for information about newborn Immortal Alfred Cahill. Already unstable, becoming Immortal had made Cahill insane; he believed he was an angel sent by God to free the world from sin. Cahill started with the last prostitute he met, Tessa's old friend, Elaine Trent. Tessa was angry to learn the fate of her intelligent, beautiful friend, but later realized that she "[sounds] like her judge and jury." MacLeod believed that the only way to stop Cahill was to behead him, despite Tessa's opinion that "Enlightened societies don't kill their insane. They treat them." When Cahill came to the barge looking for MacLeod he found Tessa alone, Tessa diverted him by welcoming Cahill as a messenger of God. Later, she told MacLeod with disgust, "I had to crawl inside his head... I had to think like him... I had to become like him."The Watchers (1993), had Tessa, MacLeod and Richie settling back to their antiques store in Seacouver and becoming aware of the Watchers, a secret society that observed Immortals without interfering. In The Darkness (1993), Tessa met a fortune teller named Greta who urged her to flee the city, that she was in danger. This reminded MacLeod of another fortune teller, who, back in 1848, predicted that he would bury many women, but marry none. MacLeod impulsively asked Tessa to marry him, and she agreed. The next day, Tessa was abducted by Pallin Wolf, a renegade Watcher who wanted to kill MacLeod. In the meantime, MacLeod told Richie that he was getting married because the thought of losing Tessa was unbearable. Tessa held her ground in front of Wolf and tried to escape, but Wolf recaptured her.
MacLeod eventually finally found them, and killed Wolf, then sent Tessa home with Richie. On their way to the car, Tessa and Richie were mugged and shot dead by Mark Roszca, a strung out drug addict. Richie's latent immortality was triggered and he awakened, but Tessa died. MacLeod, devastated, left Seacouver, and told Richie to sell the antique store.
Eye for an Eye (1993) shows the aftermath of Tessa's death. MacLeod told Richie, "She was part of our lives, Richie. Never pretend she wasn't." MacLeod also advised Richie to get used to her loss, because it "won't be the last time it happens to you." Later, while MacLeod trained Richie quickly so that he could face Immortal Annie Devlin, Richie angrily told 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 told Devlin, "Nothing you do brings anyone back. Once they're dead... nothing."
In the two-part finale to season two, Counterfeit (1994), James Horton, a renegade Watcher, leader of the Hunters, who believed all Immortals must be destroyed, used killer Lisa Halle to try and kill MacLeod. Lisa underwent plastic surgery to make her resemble Tessa and put her in MacLeod's path. MacLeod met Lisa just after he admitted to himself how much he missed Tessa, and he was stunned by her resemblance to Tessa. Despite knowing that Tessa was dead and cannot return, he eagerly pursued a relationship with Lisa. He eventually admitted the truth when he discovered a scar on Lisa's jaw, indicating plastic surgery. Horton killed Lisa on Tessa's grave before being himself killed by MacLeod.
To Be and Not To Be (1998), the series finale, depicted MacLeod dreaming of a world in which he was never born. Vandernoot reprised her role as Tessa, this time never having met MacLeod. Tessa instead, led an unsatisfactory life in which she has a husband and children, but was forced to sacrifice her art and passion. In this storyline she had an affair with the visiting MacLeod but felt she had betrayed herself and her husband.
Vandernoot found Tessa's personality "...very nice, very understanding, generous, supportive." MacLeod appreciated that Tessa always had a way of reminding him of his humanity. In For Evil's Sake, she told a guilt-ridden MacLeod that "You may be Immortal, but you're not omnipotent.... The world is not your responsibility." Tessa often joked 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." Tessa is able to empathize 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 showed compassion instead of the fear or disgust he expected: "I was just thinking how lonely you must be. Your parents, your friends... having them all die." Tessa is a very empathetic and understanding character, for example, in Saving Grace, she was jealous of MacLeod's former lover Grace; however, when MacLeod assured her that he no longer loved Grace, her response was simply "...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 demonstrated great courage in episodes such as Mountain Men, where she was abducted by three mountain men led by Immortal Caleb Cole, who wanted to marry her. Tessa refused to submit and spread dissension among them, resulting in Cole finally killing one of his own men before MacLeod rescued her.Tessa was a selfless character, although it has, occasionally, been known to put her into rather sticky situations, such as the episode See No Evil, Tessa's friend, Natalie, was attacked by serial killer Michael Tanovsky and Tessa uses herself as bait to catch him: "Nobody's watching over his next victim, Duncan... and she's going to die if you and I don't stop him." She hit Tanovsky with her car, telling MacLeod "I thought ridding the world of evil would feel better than this."
Tessa had a reputation for speaking frankly and for refusing to tolerate any nonsense. In Innocent Man, when MacLeod refused to take her where an evil Immortal was, she said, "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 had no self-pity and "...doesn't like euphemisms" In For Tomorrow We Die, MacLeod called her "contrary by nature" when Tessa parked her car without regard to parking laws, she can drive a speedboat, was a poor chess player, and disliked war.
William Panzer comments that having Tessa stop the killer in See No Evil "...was kind of an unusual idea [in 1992], and this was the subject of a lot of meetings with [supervising producer] David Abramowitz, myself and the people from the various networks, domestic and foreign, who were involved."