John Boyega calls Disney out for marketing a Black character, only to ultimately push them aside
CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 9/3/2020, 12:53 p.m.
By Leah Asmelash, CNN
(CNN) -- When Disney first revealed John Boyega as a stormtrooper in "The Force Awakens," he immediately became the target of racist comments from "Star Wars" fans protesting the casting of a Black person in the role.
Now, six years later, with the latest trilogy completed, Boyega is speaking up about his time working on the franchise. And understandably, he doesn't seem too happy.
"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 in an interview with GQ UK that was published Wednesday.
Boyega was referring to his character Finn, a former Stormtrooper who played an important role in the first movie of the latest reiteration of the beloved franchise, but then largely became more of a background character as the following films focused more on Rey and Kylo Ren, played by Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver.
And he said he wasn't the only one cast aside. It was every person of color involved in the movies, including Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran and Oscar Isaac, he said.
"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 fk all. So what do you want me to say?"
Boyega acknowledged that being part of the franchise was an "amazing opportunity" and a "stepping stone."
But, he told the publication, "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."
Hollywood has long faced backlash for its lack of representation on screen, with advocates in the industry voicing their criticism in an open #OscarsSoWhite campaign in 2015 and 2016. That same year, Boyega was among the 683 new members added to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
And while Hollywood is more diverse than before, many in the industry have pointed out there is still a long way to go.
Just last week, fellow Black Brit Letitia Wright tweeted about still having to ask for Black hair and make up artists to be given higher positions on sets where the majority of cast members are Black.
And last year, Gabrielle Union opened up about the racism she faced while working on "America's Got Talent."
"I'm the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race," Boyega told GQ UK about his time working on "Star Wars."
"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.'"
Boyega mentioned the death threats he received over his casting and the calls by some fans to boycott the film because of him. "Nobody else had that experience," he said.
The interview has made waves online, with many praising Boyega, and others joining him in calling out Disney.
"I hope Hollywood gives John Boyega a franchise worthy of his talents now," said comic book author G. Willow Wilson.
"Disney promoting John Boyega like he was going to become a Jedi and then making him a side character is a good reason for us to all get mad," one person on Twitter wrote, along with the promotional images featuring Boyega holding a light saber.