John Boyega became a household name following his role in the 2015 blockbuster, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
The British actor did an explosive interview with GQ and he spoke candidly about his experience.
It was clear to Boyega that he was marketed to satisfy the diversity quota, but they didn’t tailor his experience to fit his needs as a Black man. For example, the hairdresser on set didn’t have experience with Black hair. “When black men grow out their hair it’s a very powerful thing,” Boyega says. “Culturally, it stands for something.”
Boyega says he saved face during the press junket because he was just happy to be there. But his father left him with some words that stuck with him. “But my dad always tells me one thing: ‘Don’t overpay with respect.’ You can pay respect, but sometimes you’ll be overpaying and selling yourself short.”
He also dragged Disney for heavily promoting his character Finn who was eventually diminished.
“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.”
“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” Boyega says. “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— 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.”
John Boyega opened up about the effects of the anti-Black backlash he received just for being himself. “I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race,” he says, holding my gaze. “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 realise, ‘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.”