It was only a matter of time before John Boyega slammed Star Wars’ Black character development—or, you know, its lack thereof. The 28-year-old British actor, who played Finn in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, has spoken briefly about his “disappointment” with the film. In April 2020, Boyega hinted in a tweet that while the role was “Very fulfilling,” there were still “some disappointments but yet not that big of a deal.” In a new interview with GQ UK, however, it appears the actor is ready to call things out for what they truly are.
Boyega, who has recently made headlines for attending protests against police brutality and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.K., was also ready to address how race factored into his experience in the Star Wars franchise. “I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race,” Boyega told GQ. “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 realize, ‘I got given this opportunity but I’m in an industry that wasn’t even ready for me.’”
“Nobody else in the cast had people saying they were going to boycott the movie because [they were in it],” Boyega added. Nobody else had the uproar and death threats sent to their Instagram DMs and social media, saying, ‘Black this and black that and you shouldn’t be a Stormtrooper.’ Nobody else had that experience. But yet people are surprised that I’m this way. That’s my frustration.”
The actor went on to point out how his white castmates—such as Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver—had better character development within the franchise whereas non-white actors such as himself and Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose Tico, were “pushed to the side.” Speaking of writers on the film, Boyega says, “Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver. 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 f**k all.”
“So what do you want me to say?” Boyega continued. “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.”
While Boyega still believes that his experience was an “amazing opportunity” and a “stepping stone” for him, he still understands the importance of being truthful about his experience. It was riddled with racist microaggressions, even beyond his script—for example, the actor notes that he once had a hairdresser who didn’t know how to work with his hair texture and often caught stylists “cringing at certain clothes I wanted to go for.” Boyega felt the entire process was “difficult to maneuver.”
“You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything,” Boyega said. “[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.”
And Boyega wasn’t the only person in the case who, he believes, experienced this kind of sidelining. GQ notes that Tran, Naomi Ackie, and Oscar Isaac were all co-stars that Boyega felt were treated similarly.
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