John Boyega did not have an entirely positive experience filming Star Wars — and he places at least some of the blame with Disney.
The actor recently opened up to GQ about what it was like to play Finn in The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker, and how he feels now when he looks back on his time with the franchise.
“You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything,” Boyega said in the interview for the magazine’s October issue. “[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 explained that while he was happy to be part of everything at first, his father taught him that you shouldn’t overpay respect — otherwise you end up selling yourself short. And when it comes to his character’s arc, and how characters of colour were treated in the franchise as a whole, Boyega wasn’t happy.
“I got given this opportunity but I’m in an industry that wasn’t even ready for me.”
“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” he said. “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 fuck 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.”
Boyega went on to say that he’s the only cast member who had their own unique experience of the franchise based on their race.
“Let’s just leave it like that,” he said. “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.”
Recently, a video of Boyega speaking to Black Live Matter protesters in London went viral, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing by police. In the footage, Boyega spoke about the importance of Black lives to the crowd, before saying, “I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this, but fuck that.”
Reflecting on his powerful protest speech, Boyega told GQ, “I feel like, especially as celebrities, we have to talk through this filter of professionalism and emotional intelligence…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.”