John Boyega Gets Candid About Marvel Studios' Success and Star Wars' Failure With Diversity

By Aeron Mer Eclarinal Posted:
John Boyega as Finn, Marvel Studios logo

Entering Phase 4, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will look to change the game even more by further amplifying on-screen representation and diversity. 

The Infinity Saga introduced a vast amount of heroes and villains into the mix, but Phase 4 will take it up a notch by showcasing a much bigger goal. 2018's Black Panther paved the way for cultural significance combined with a compelling superhero storyline, ultimately leading to a full-blown success. 

The triumph of Black Panther served as a game-changer for Marvel Studios, creating more space for lesser-known heroes to take the spotlight to inspire people of color along the way. 

New heroes like Simu Liu's Shang-Chi and some members of the Eternals will also carry that responsibility moving forward, with returning ones like Sam Wilson's Captain America joining the fray. 

Now, the latest interview with a bonafide actor from the galaxy far, far away has solidified his support for the new narrative directions of the MCU. 


John Boyega Star Wars Disney Finn

Star Wars actor John Boyega recently sat down as a guest in an episode of Fresh Air with Terry Gross to talk about Marvel Studios and their firm grasp of diversity in their films. 

Boyega first looked back on his earlier statements against Lucasfilm's treatment of his Finn character from the sequel trilogy of the Skywalker Saga. The actor voiced his frustrations about characters of color, like Kelly Marie Tran's Rose, being sidelined to give way to Adam Driver's Kylo Ren and Daisy Ridley's Rey. 

When Gross asked his thoughts once more about those past remarks, Boyega admitted that all he wanted to discuss then was “an issue” that fans and even cast members know from the get-go: 

“Well, I think I wanted to discuss the elephant in the room that is easily dismissed sometimes, easily seen as a selfish act, a way to put the attention on you. I wanted to discuss an issue that I discussed with actors on set, an issue that I had discussed with, you know, professional individuals, you know, execs, producers who I'd meet, whether at award shows or meetings, who were noticing the same things I'd noticed.

You know, I tell the story of walking in a park and someone random - and this is somebody that was not even in industry basis - he just recognized me. And, you know, he even mentioned kind of like seeing the change in trajectory in my character and just all the stuff that I mentioned in that GQ article, you know, at the time.”

Boyega then continued by pointing out his realization that “human beings assume the worst” when opening up about the franchise's portrayal of characters of color, but he strongly believed that there's a "big process" about the whole ordeal: 

"And I guess I just wanted to say it out loud so that it wouldn't be an awkward conversation to have, because I think, in general, what I realized after all of this is that, in general, I think human beings assume the worst. So as soon as you open up about something like that, people assume that you're doing it for the worst reasons - right? - doing it for yourself. And, you know, you just (unintelligible) you and whatever. But they forget that there's a big process, and especially when it comes to studio films and characters."

The Star Wars and Pacific Rim: Uprising lead actor shared that “characters are only as good as the moments that you give them," looking into the work of Marvel Studios as an example of that notion: 

“The characters are only as good as the moments that you give them. When we talk about, you know, Captain America and him kind of facing off Thanos and his army, when you talk about these moments that are given to characters, it's only because these moments are written by somebody. These moments are put in there on purpose to elevate characters.”

Boyega used The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's portrayal of Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson as an example to prove his point, noting those "special moments" in franchise movies that allow for characters of all backgrounds to shine. Boyega's final comment about "moments [that] feel like you're being bypassed" is an indication toward his feelings about Finn in the Star Wars sequel trilogy: 

"We've got people now watching Falcon And The Winter Soldier, and a lot of people have been commenting about the elevation of Falcon's character - right? - in the series and how they've really done well with bringing him up, which I also agree as well.

You know, and we can see there is - that's because you give characters these special moments, you know. But then what then happens when, you know, some moments feels like you're being bypassed and it kind of goes for years and years and things pile on?"


Diversity and representation have been the common topic of discussion when it comes to the MCU, especially after the success of Marvel Comics in that realm. Throughout its run, the franchise had its fair share of ups and downs, with cast members like Anthony Mackie being candid about the lack of it during a previous interview.  

Despite the criticisms, Marvel Studios appears to have learned their lesson, and Boyega's latest comments amplify that. Head executive Kevin Feige went in-depth about the company's plan to succeed by incorporating “people from various backgrounds and genders,” using Marvel Comics as a reference while also hoping to have a wide variety of people in different positions within the MCU's brainchild of creatives. 

The Star Wars actor's remark about “characters are only as good as the moments that you give them” is a fitting reminder of how the MCU sets the bar in terms of telling an honest and consistent story. From dialogues to the execution of the sequence, these are all perfectly crafted to showcase either a heroic transformation or a redeemable arc. 

This is part of the fun of the MCU's storytelling, and it will be interesting to find out how the writers will continue the trend of elevating characters in Phase 4. Based on Marvel's track record, it's reasonable to assume that they will be consistent in that department. 

Release Date
March 19, 2021
- About The Author: Aeron Mer Eclarinal
Aeron is a news/features writer and Content Lead for The Direct who has been working for the site since March 2020. From writing about the inter-connectivity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to having an extended knowledge about DC TV's Arrowverse, Aeron's expertise has since expanded into the realm of reality TV, K-drama, animated, and live-action shows from Netflix,  Disney+, Prime Video, MGM+, Peacock, Paramount+, and Max. When he isn't writing and watching all things MCU, Aeron is heavily invested with the NBA (go Celtics!) and occasionally watches thrilling matches in the WWE.