In his first substantial interview since completing the Star Wars trilogy, John Boyega aired his grievances over the franchise's – and Disney as a whole's – mishandling of non-white characters. According to the actor, one thing is clear: the film industry has failed people of color.

In the interview with Jimi Famurewa for GQ, Boyega addressed the series' noteworthy shortcomings in how it addressed his character Finn, as well as other POCs who were introduced in the new films. "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.

When Boyega was cast in 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, his character effectively became the first protagonist of the series played by a black actor — a role that was heralded – and hated – for its inclusivity. However, it turned out to be an empty promise. Finn, a former stormtrooper, played an important role in the first film, but then largely dropped off to become more of a background character as the following films focused more on Rey and Kylo Ren, played by Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver.

The actor explained that he wasn't the only one cast aside, it was every person of color involved in the movies who he feels suffered the same treatment. "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 [...] 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.”

Beyond the storyline, Boyega reflected on how ill-equipped big studios are to deal with Black talents. For instance, he shared how the hairdresser had no experience of working with hair like his but “still had the guts to pretend.” Also off-set, Boyega encountered racist attacks by Star Wars fans who protested the casting of a Black person in the role. "I'm the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race," Boyega said. "It makes you angry with a process like that. It makes you much more militant; it changes you."

These experiences made him question if there was even room for someone who looked like him to exist in an industry built to white standards. Disney and the film industry at large have a habit of sidelining of people of color in tentpole projects. Boyega points out that blockbuster's POC characters are both underplayed and underrepresented.

For Boyega, the struggle with racism extends beyond his career. His reckoning with racism in the film industry spurned a personally transformative period, which culminated in a powerful speech at recent Black Lives Matter protests in London. The actor revealed to GQ that the incredibly moving, viral moment was completely unplanned. “I feel like, especially as celebrities, we have to talk through this filter of professionalism and emotional intelligence,” he says. “Sometimes you just need to be mad. You need to lay down what it is that’s on your mind. Sometimes you don’t have enough time to play the game.”

As anti-racism protests set off by the murder of George Floyd swept across the globe, Disney released a statement in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and their "Black employees, storytellers, creators, and the entire Black community," along with a $5 million pledge to anti-racist causes. The move was necessary and important in a time when Hollywood faces backlash for its overt and covert racism. However, Boyega's criticisms remind us to stay militant and ask the question: is Disney keeping the energy that they’re claiming in this moment, or was this energy just an opportunity for them to cover themselves during the middle of a publicity nightmare of their own creation?

Head over to GQ, to read John Boyega's full interview.

What To Read Next

  • Image on Highsnobiety

    Bellerín Is Back, Raf Simons Signs Out, & Julia Fox Saves the Day

    Culture
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    Packer Serves a Perfect Rendition of Reebok's Club C

    Sneakers
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    The Best Gifts Under $200 That Everyone Will Love

    Style
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    Diadora Turns Its Tennis Heritage Into a Sneaker Grand Slam

    Sneakers
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    These Are Our Favorite Salomon Sneakers to Shop Now

    Sneakers
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    Put Down Your Phone This Holiday With Ray-Ban Stories Smart Glasses

*If you submitted your e-mail address and placed an order, we may use your e-mail address to inform you regularly about similar products without prior explicit consent. You can object to the use of your e-mail address for this purpose at any time without incurring any costs other than the transmission costs according to the basic tariffs. Each newsletter contains an unsubscribe link. Alternatively, you can object to receiving the newsletter at any time by sending an e-mail to info@highsnobiety.com

Web Accessibility Statement

Titelmedia (Highsnobiety), is committed to facilitating and improving the accessibility and usability of its Website, www.highsnobiety.com. Titelmedia strives to ensure that its Website services and content are accessible to persons with disabilities including users of screen reader technology. To accomplish this, Titelmedia has engaged UsableNet Inc, a leading web accessibility consultant to help test, remediate and maintain our Website in-line with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which also bring the Website into conformance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Disclaimer

Please be aware that our efforts to maintain accessibility and usability are ongoing. While we strive to make the Website as accessible as possible some issues can be encountered by different assistive technology as the range of assistive technology is wide and varied.

Contact Us

If, at any time, you have specific questions or concerns about the accessibility of any particular webpage on this Website, please contact us at accessibility@highsnobiety.com, +49 (0)30 235 908 500. If you do encounter an accessibility issue, please be sure to specify the web page and nature of the issue in your email and/or phone call, and we will make all reasonable efforts to make that page or the information contained therein accessible for you.