Since The Rise of Skywalker's release last December, Star Wars actor John Boyega has been open in sharing his feelings and experiences about being part of Disney's sequel trilogy and about racial injustice and social unrest. Earlier this summer, Boyega attended a Black Lives Matter protest in London where his rallying words to the crowd made headlines worldwide, and was publicly supported by Lucasfilm and the Star Wars family.
As Boyega looks ahead, and as we continue to navigate this critical time in our history, Boyega is continuing to use his platform to speak out and reveal issues he experienced while filming with Star Wars.
Boyega recently sat down with GQ Magazine, his first interview since completing the Rise of Skywalker and in light of his speech that day in London. There, he shared a different view of his experience working on Star Wars and his frustration with how he and other actors of color were sidelined in favor of Daisy Ridley's Rey and Adam Driver's Kylo Ren:
“It's so difficult to manoeuvre. 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.”
In Disney's sequel trilogy, John Boyega played Finn, a rogue stormtrooper whose character's storyline started off strong but progressively became as much of an after-thought as the trilogy's overall storyline.
Boyega further commented on his character's treatment versus Ridley's and Driver's, also mentioning the treatment of Kelly Marie Tran's Rose Tico:
“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. 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.”
While Ridley's Rey has been criticized as an overall weak character, Rey was still the front and center focus of the trilogy. Driver's Kylo Ren was hailed as the trilogy's best character, and his performance was widely praised by fans and critics alike. Both actors were given a lot to work with, but clearly Boyega feels the same didn't extend to himself and other members of the cast.
The article's author, Jimi Famurewa, added that Boyega feels that other diverse members of the cast suffered the same treatment, including Tran's Rose Tico, Naomi Ackie's Jannah and Oscar Issac's Poe Dameron.
Famurewa also said Boeyga is acknowledging that some people will say he's “crazy” or “making it up," but the reordered character hierarchy of The Last Jedi was particularly hard to take.
WHAT THIS MEANS
John Boyega is not the first member of the Star Wars cast to express complaints or a lack of enthusiasm for their experience. Mark Hamill has openly expressed his disappointment with the sequel trilogy's handling of his character, Luke Skywalker. In addition, Oscar Isaac, who played Poe Dameron, has been dismissive in regard to the possibility of returning to Star Wars in the future.
Boyega, however, is one of the first to openly criticize Disney and Lucasfilm for marginalizing the diverse members of the cast; and while such direct statements may come as a surprise to some, this is not a new story for this trilogy.
Following the release of 2017's The Last Jedi, Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose Tico, disappeared from social media following online racial harassment. While openly supported and celebrated by her cast and other Star Wars fans, her character was relegated to just over a minute of screen time in The Rise of Skywalker.
While Tran's character's limited role in the trilogy's final installment was blamed on production difficulties, many have wondered if the decision was one of retreat due to toxic fan criticism.
It's always difficult to tell what a film or trilogy's legacy will be. For a series of films plagued by troubled productions and a lack of story direction, it appears John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran's experiences, especially at this time in our history, may be an unfortunate part of the trilogy's legacy.