John Boyega has spoken out on his experience with race in the Star Wars universe and world of Disney productions.
In a new interview with GQ, Boyega described the racist hate he received for portraying "Finn" in the trilogy of new Star Wars films. But the actor also criticized Disney's handling of people of colour in the films as well as how they were marketed.
John Boyega on Star Wars and racism
The 28-year-old Boyega reflected on Star Wars as an "amazing opportunity" that's led to "so much good in his life and career" — but that experience was not without harm and racism that altered his worldview, the actor shared.
"You get yourself involved in projects and you're not necessarily going to like everything," he told GQ. "[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 went on to observe a discrepancy in treatment of people of colour and white actors in the trilogy, referencing the evolving focus on Daisy Ridley's and Adam Driver's characters in the trilogy's latter two films.
"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 fuck all," he said.
The Rise of Skywalker had even made headlines upon its release for Tran's noticeably-limited screentime. Boyega continued: "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 on disturbing racist hate by Star Wars fans
Boyega also described to GQ the troubling wave of hatred he experienced throughout his four years in the new Star Wars trilogy. "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 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]," 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."
In recent months, Boyega has been outspoken on fighting racial inequalities and a leading celebrity-world figure in protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
The actor will next appear in Small Axe by director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave, Widows). Watch for it to premiere on BBC One and iPlayer this fall.