John Boyega has opened up about the racist abuse he received for his role in the Star Wars franchise.
The London-born actor played Finn – a reformed stormtrooper formerly known as FN-2187 – in The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. Previously, stormtroopers were all part of a clone army – so all of them were modelled off of the character of Jango Fett, played by Temuera Morrison.
When Boyega was first cast in the role, people criticised the franchise for not continuing on with this storyline – despite the fact that according to the timeline, the three new films were set 30 years after Return of the Jedi and now incorporated enlisted stormtroopers, rather than clones.
Boyega has now revealed he was subject to racist abuse and even death threats, according to a recent interview with GQ.
I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race… 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.’
Speaking specifically about the negative backlash to Boyega’s casting, the actor added:
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.
In the interview, Boyega opened up about how his character – who featured heavily in his first role of the franchise – was “pushed to the side” of storylines in the follow-up 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. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up.
The actor opened up about the different ways white actors like Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver’s characters were treated as opposed to the people of colour, like Kelly Marie Tran and Naomi Ackie.
The months of online harassment of Tran – who played Rose in the franchise – got so bad that in 2018, she deleted all of the posts from her Instagram account.
She updated her bio to “Afraid, but doing it anyway” and at the time of writing, still has not posted to her account again.
People on social media praised Boyega’s raw and candid interview:
This interview with John Boyega by Jimi Famurewa is exhilarating. I can't think of any famous actor who has so nake… https://t.co/bJmsSzURP6