Ever since he was cast as Finn in the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, John Boyaga’s fielded racist criticism simply because of his skin color.
Now, during a GQ Britain cover story, the actor says his race became the most notable factor over his character rather than his acting on the big screen.
“I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race,” said Boyega, who starred in the last three films of the nine-part science fiction blockbuster series.. “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],” he continued. ”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.”
Being a Black stormtrooper made many Black people excited to see representation in such a huge movie franchise, however, that enthusiasm dwindled when it became apparent that the Finn character wasn’t going to be as developed as one might expect. Boyega says he believes that not only happened to him, but other cast members of color such as Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie and Oscar Issac.
“It’s so difficult to maneuver,” he said in the cover story. “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.”
He added: “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, when it came to John Boyega, you know f**k 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.”
Read the full GQ cover story here.
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images