John Boyega Says He Was The Only Star Wars Cast Member Whose ‘Experience Was Based On Race’
John Boyega’s first post-Star Wars interview is both incendiary and insightful, with the actor saying, ‘I got given this opportunity, but I’m in an industry that wasn’t even ready for me.’
The 28-year-old first debuted in a galaxy far, far away in 2014’s The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams’ revival that put Boyega in the shoes of conflicted stormtrooper FN-2187, running from the fierce grip of the First Order.
Watching it back, Finn’s climactic battle with Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is sketched like the first hero moment of many. However, in later instalments – particularly the critically-mired The Rise of Skywalker – his presence felt more ornamental; the sad reality of a brilliant Black actor whose ‘experience was based on race’.
In his first major interview with GQ following the final chapter of the Skywalker Saga, Boyega is refreshingly candid about his tenure under the House of Mouse’s sci-fi tentpole.
While conceding ‘you’re not necessarily going to like everything’, the Attack the Block star said, ‘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.’
I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race. 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.
Nobody else in the cast had people saying they were going to boycott the movie because [they were in it]. 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,’ the actor added. ‘But yet people are surprised that I’m this way. That’s my frustration.’
Boyega was also careful to note that being cast in the franchise was an ‘amazing opportunity’ and a ‘stepping stone’ to greater things. He also defended Abrams following The Rise of Skywalker, saying, ‘Everybody needs to leave my boy alone. He wasn’t even supposed to come back and try to save your sh*t.’
Commenting on The Last Jedi’s cast hierarchy, Boyega explained:
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*ck all.
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.
Further to his impassioned Black Lives Matter speech earlier this year, and the nature of celebrity commentary in general, Boyega said, ‘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.’
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk
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