John Boyega has expressed his frustration at being “pushed to the side” in the sequels to his Star Wars debut The Force Awakens, saying that Disney gave “all the nuance” to Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley’s white characters in the later films.
In a candid interview with GQ, Boyega also suggests his fellowed diverse major cast members, including Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran and Oscar Isaac, were all victims of similar fates.
“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,” commented Boyega.
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“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,” he continued. “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.”
He added that some of the film’s white cast members did not suffer the same outcomes, “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.”
In the interview, Boyega also expressed his frustration with how his casting and performances in the franchise were often perceived through the prism of his race.
“I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race… 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.”
His comments follows a summer where Boyega stood out as a vocal, prominent and articulate campaigner for change following the killing of George Floyd. The actor made an impassioned speech at a Black Lives Matter protest in London back in June, for which he earned widespread praise and recognition.
“Sometimes you just need to be mad,” he told GQ on the speech. “You need to lay down what it is that’s on your mind. Sometimes you don’t have enough time to play the game.”
Boyega will soon be seen in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe, and the actor said the experience was a positive one. “Steve [brought] up things I could relate to and comes with a creative mind like I’ve never experienced before…It reminded me of my happiest days at drama school. Being on set was like I’d been given the chance to breathe.”