John Boyega is not happy with his experience on Star Wars.
Without a doubt, this is quite a heavy topic. There is no denying that people of color have had a rough time in Hollywood since the beginning of the industry. White actors portrayed many characters of color in blackface or brownface early on. Later when roles actually opened up for actors of color, they were limited to very specific stereotypes. While things have gotten better over the years, there’s no denying that actors of color are often relegated to specific supporting roles.
So when John Boyega landed a lead role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it was a big deal. In fact, it was such a big deal that Boyega himself recalled getting a lot of harassment online simply for being involved in Star Wars.
“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 realise, ‘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]. 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.”
Regardless of what fans had to say, Finn was around to stay. Then again, many would argue that, after that first film, Finn’s role in the trilogy was marginalized. He went off on his own subplot in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Personally, I think that film really did a lot for the character, but I know plenty of fans who disagree, and Boyega seems to be one of them.
“You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything. [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,” Boyega said.
“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” he says. “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? 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.”
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And, to be clear, it seems that Boyega is very much talking about The Last Jedi here. The report stated that all people of color on the cast suffered similar treatment of being relegated to the back, and that The Last Jedi kickstarted a real change in the hierarchy in the franchise. And in regards to how Finn was treated in The Rise of Skywalker.
“Everybody needs to leave my boy alone,” Boyega said. “He wasn’t even supposed to come back and try to save your s**t.”
Ouch. Those are certainly some heated words there. While I don’t personally agree with his assessment of how Finn was treated in The Last Jedi, there is no discounting his overall experience within the series as a whole. Indeed, Lucasfilm teased Finn as a secondary lead in the series, and he ultimately became a supporting character by the time The Rise of Skywalker rolled around.
As I indicated earlier in this piece, the industry has a very real history of racism. These days, in many cases, it becomes less about intentional racist views making their way on-screen, and more about the people in power not having any real idea how to treat characters of color. It’s these kinds of issues that can only be solved by putting more people of color in charge up top. The more Hollywood does that, the more varying perspectives and leads we will get in these films.
How do you feel about what Boyega had to say? Sound off down below!
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