John Boyega claims Star Wars character was sidelined because of race

September 02, 2020

Star Wars actor John Boyega has accused Disney of sidelining his character after marketing him as an important figure, and says his experience of the series was different as a black actor.

The 28-year-old played Finn, the first black Stormtrooper, in the latest trilogy, which started with The Force Awakens in 2015.

Appearing alongside Daisy Ridley's Rey and Adam Driver's villainous Kylo Ren, Boyega's time on screen diminished in sequel The Last Jedi in 2017 and finale The Rise Of Skywalker in 2019.

In an interview with British GQ, Boyega has claimed Disney gave more nuance to his Star Wars co-stars and that they did not know how to treat a black character.

"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," he said. "It's not good. I'll say it straight up."

The actor, who was born in Peckham, south London, continued: "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 (who played Rose Tico and has Vietnamese heritage), when it came to John Boyega, you know f*** 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."

Ahead of the release of The Rise Of Skywalker last year, Ridley, who was born in Westminster and was privately educated, faced an online backlash after claiming in an interview that she was no more privileged than Boyega, who applied for a hardship fund to join Theatre Peckham.

At the time, the actor posted a video on Instagram saying he had "all the love in my heart" for his co-star.

Speaking to the magazine about his general experience in Star Wars, as well as abuse he has received on social media, Boyega said it had made him more "militant" about racial inequality.

Following the death of George Floyd in the US, he joined Black Lives Matter protests and hit out at racist behaviour online.

Talking about experiences that have made him want to speak out more, he told GQ: "I'm the only [Star Wars] 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.

"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].

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"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."

Boyega told the magazine he did not want to "talk through this filter of professionalism and emotional intelligence" that is often expected of celebrities.

"Sometimes you just need to be mad," he said. "You need to lay down what it is that's on your mind.

"Sometimes you don't have enough time to play the game."

Sky News has contacted Disney for comment.

The full interview is in the October issue of British GQ, out on Friday

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