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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

John Boyega says Disney knew "fuck all" about how to handle Star Wars' characters of color

Illustration for article titled John Boyega says Disney knew fuck all about how to handle iStar Wars/i characters of color
Photo: Jonathan Olley/Disney

John Boyega scored the role of a lifetime after getting cast as Finn, a key character in Disney’s The Force Awakens, the beginning of a new Star Wars trilogy. But, over the course of the franchise’s trio of films, it became clear that the British-Nigerian actor wasn’t simply going to smile for the cameras. Boyega regularly addressed the franchise’s toxic, often racist fandom, and also wasn’t afraid to share his own issues with the trilogy’s arc. Now, following his impassioned (and viral) speech at a London Black Lives Matter rally, the actor isn’t holding back in a new interview with British GQ, his first since The Rise Of Skywalker. 

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He addresses his viral moment—Sometimes you just need to be mad”—and his issues with racism within the Star Wars fandom. “I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race,” he 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.’”

He added, “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.”

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He also doesn’t hesitate to criticize the franchise’s handling of Finn, a character many feel never got the opportunity to shine or evolve in the same way as Daisy Ridley’s Rey or Adam Driver’s Kylo. [W]hat 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,” he said.

Boyega isn’t just talking about Finn, either. GQ clarifies the actor is also addressing the trilogy’s handling of Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose, Naomi Ackie’s Jannah, and Oscar Isaac’s Poe. “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.”

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As he has previously, Boyega sounds particularly displeased with Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi. “I didn’t necessarily agree with a lot of the choices in that,” he told Hypebeast last year. Here, he takes a moment to defend Force Awakens and Rise Of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams, who was maligned by many critics and fans following the trilogy’s underwhelming final film. “Everybody needs to leave my boy alone,” Boyega said of Abrams. “He wasn’t even supposed to come back and try to save your shit”

Boyega will next be seen in Red, White And Blue, an installment in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe BBC series. You can read the full interview here.

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Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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