John Boyega is speaking out for the first time about his experience as part of the cast of “Star Wars” where he was marketed as a major addition in the first film and then pushed to the side in subsequent sequels…
When John Boyega was cast in 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” it appeared to be the role of a lifetime.
Joining an iconic franchise like “Star Wars” is a massive moment for any actor and they idea was that Boyega was going to be a major part of the next trilogy of films alongside fellow newcomers Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver. Unfortunately after Boyega was revealed as part of the cast, he faced a swath of racist comments being hurled in his direction as well as the threat of a boycott over his appearance in the movie.
Still, Boyega went onto play a major part in J.J. Abrams’ sequel that introduced several important new characters to coincide with the return of legacy cast members like Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. But as much Boyega’s Finn was a huge component in “The Force Awakens,” he almost took a backseat in the following sequel “The Last Jedi” directed by Rian Johnson. By the conclusion of the series in “The Rise of Skywalker,” Boyega was barely a lead character any longer with the primary focus in the film shifting to Ridley and Driver, who portrayed Ray and Kylo Ren respectively.
Now for the first time, Boyega is speaking out about his experience as part of the “Star Wars” cast and the issues of race that needed to be addressed after working on those three films.
“It’s so difficult to maneuver,” Boyega told GQ in the UK. “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 wasn’t alone when it came to non-white characters who were introduced in the new “Star Wars” trilogy but ultimately played secondary roles in the franchise. He points to other actors like Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran and Naomi Ackie, who faced similar issues where they were part of the cast but not necessarily leading characters by the time the trilogy came to a close.
“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” Boyega 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.”
It’s hard to argue with Boyega’s points considering how major a role he played in “The Force Awakens” — even wielding a lightsaber in one particular battle scene — but then pushed to a secondary storyline in the sequel and seemingly forgotten by the third film in the series. Even the connection that Boyega’s character Finn had with Ridley’s Ray in the first film was almost completely gone by the time “The Last Jedi” landed in theaters in 2017.
While he was understandably upset with how it all played out, Boyega is quick to defend Abrams for his work on the third and final film in the trilogy after he was brought into serve as director after Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) was initially on board for “The Rise of Skywalker” before he left the project over creative differences with Disney.
“Everybody needs to leave my boy alone,” Boyega said when addressing Abrams. “He wasn’t even supposed to come back and try to save your shit”
Overall, Boyega can’t help but connect his entire “Star Wars” experience back to race issues that plagued him from the moment he was cast in the first film in the trilogy.
“I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race,” Boyega said. “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 realize, ‘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.”
As for what comes next for Boyega in his acting career, he will next be seen in Steve McQueen’s upcoming series “Small Axe” and he has also been announced as part of the cast of the upcoming film “Borderland” as well as the lead in “They Cloned Tyrone” where he will star alongside Oscar winner Jamie Foxx.