John Boyega to Disney: Nonwhite ‘Star Wars’ characters were ‘pushed to the side’
Five years after he made his “Star Wars” debut as a Stormtrooper-turned-resistance fighter, John Boyega has a message for the Disney empire.
“You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything,” Boyega told Jimi Famurewa for British GQ.
“[But] what I would say to Disney is do not bring out a Black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up.”
In a sprawling cover interview published Wednesday, Boyega opened up about his experiences starring in the new “Star Wars” trilogy as Finn opposite Daisy Ridley’s Rey, Oscar Isaac’s Poe, Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose, Naomi Ackie’s Jannah and other key players.
“[Y]ou guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” he continued. “You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know [nothing].
“So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience...’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience. They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”
The first film of the trilogy, J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens,” saw Boyega’s Finn bravely battle Kylo Ren’s empire alongside Ridley’s Rey. The second, Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi,” put Finn and Rey on different paths that didn’t fully converge again until Abrams’ highly contested finale, “The Rise of Skywalker” — which Boyega defended against its haters.
“Everybody needs to leave my boy [Abrams] alone,” he said. “He wasn’t even supposed to come back and try to save your [saga].”
Boyega also remarked on some of his experiences off-set, working with a stylist whom he noticed “cringing at certain clothes” he eyed, as well as a hairdresser who didn’t know how to style his hair “but still had the guts to pretend.”
“During the press of [‘The Force Awakens’] I went along with it,” he said. “And obviously at the time I was very genuinely happy to be a part of it. But my dad always tells me one thing: ‘Don’t overpay with respect.’ You can pay respect, but sometimes you’ll be overpaying and selling yourself short.”
The internet is a double-edged sword.
Around the time “The Force Awakens” hit theaters, Boyega recalled the racist backlash he endured, which included hateful social media messages, death threats and a boycott against the film because of his casting in the first installment. His “Last Jedi” scene partner, Tran, also was subjected to racist cyberbullying after she was cast as the courageous Rose Tico in Johnson’s sequel.
“I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race,” Boyega said of his time on “The Force Awakens.” “Let’s just leave it like that. It makes you angry with a process like that. It makes you much more militant; it changes you. Because you realise, ‘I got given this opportunity but I’m in an industry that wasn’t even ready for me.’ ... Nobody else had that experience. But yet people are surprised that I’m this way. That’s my frustration.”
Recently, the public saw the real-life resistance fighter in Boyega when video of him delivering a passionate speech at a Black Lives Matter protest in London went viral, drawing support from figures in the entertainment industry and beyond.
John Boyega’s fiery Black Lives Matter activism wins fans beyond ‘Star Wars’ galaxy
Actor John Boyega’s passionate remarks at Black Lives Matter protests in London have earned him respect from his “Star Wars” family and others in Hollywood.
“I feel like, especially as celebrities, we have to talk through this filter of professionalism and emotional intelligence,” he said of the moment. “Sometimes you just need to be mad. You need to lay down what it is that’s on your mind. Sometimes you don’t have enough time to play the game.”
Unsurprisingly, GQ’s interview with Boyega has generated significant buzz on social media, prompting the actor to urge people to read the piece in full before passing judgment online.
“These conversations and me sharing isn’t about a witch hunt,” he tweeted upon the article’s publication. “It’s about clarity to an anger that can be seen as selfish, disruptive and self indulgent. Obviously in hopes of better change. Bruh. In short. I said what I said. Love to you all seriously. Your support is amazing!”
You can read Boyega’s complete conversation with Famurewa for British GQ here.
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.