John Boyega does not have the fondest feelings when it comes to experience making Star Wars movies. The actor has been extremely vocal about how he feels both himself and his character, Finn, were treated by Disney. And now, Boyega is outright warning future BIPOC actors to learn from his dealings with the company.
Speaking with Variety, John Boyega issued a call to action for Disney to treat their BIPOC actors better. “Next time you cast [a Black actor in Star Wars], you bring them through the process,” said Boyega. “They need that support. They can’t get Boyega-ed.” the fact that the actor is using his own name to define the kind of poor experience Disney has had with its BIPOC actors and characters should speak volumes.
And John Boyega is not alone in feeling that the recent sequel trilogy poorly handled its characters of color. Clearly, there were genuine issues in the writing and development process of these characters, and these issues were sidelined so that the main white characters – Rey and Kylo Ren – were given the more satisfactory story arcs. Boyega has even brought this specific point 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.”
In all honesty, a lot of the criticisms that have been lobbed against the sequel trilogy stem from the kind of tunnel vision John Boyega is talking about. The larger ensemble cast certainly filled out its periphery with characters of color, but the messy writing that culminated in the abysmal Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker ended up sacrificing all of those characters in service of only two of the leads. In an effort to promote more characters of color, Disney ended up tamping them down and erasing any goodwill they had built.
What is going to be interesting moving forward is if Disney and other actors of color listen to the criticism John Boyega is lobbing at the Star Wars franchise. With Star Wars feature films seemingly put on indefinite hiatus, the franchise has shifted its focus to streaming series on Disney+. And while the main character of The Mandalorian is played by an actor of color, he also spends 99% of his time masking himself and hiding that part of his identity. Will Disney be placing an actor of color in a prominent and visible role for a future Star Wars project? Or will they only be a supporting part of a larger ensemble?
The real shame here has to do with Disney mistreating an actor like John Boyega. It is obvious that his role in this new era of Star Wars was meant to kick off even greater opportunities for him. He absolutely wowed audiences in the must-see sci-fi action film Attack the Block, but his roles after Star Wars have failed to give him the kind of spotlight and acclaim that he deserves. Hopefully, he can find another part that takes off with audiences and demonstrates just how talented he is.
And will other actors of color take note of John Boyega’s warning? Will the Star Wars franchise learn from the mistakes of the sequel trilogy and figure out how to better utilize these kinds of characters and actors? Disney has stayed pretty quiet when it comes to acknowledging the issues Boyega has brought up. We should keep an eye on how they act in the future and if they recognize the valid criticisms Boyega has brought up ever since his tenure with the franchise has come to a close.
Whether or not Disney does heed the words of John Boyega, we certainly hope that future actors of color in the Star Wars series get a better shake than he did. It is a bummer that Boyega has such a negative association with his Star Wars experience. At the very least, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi allowed two characters of color – Finn and Rose Tico – to be the catalysts to wrecking an establishment that represented obscene wealth and the exploitation of the working class in the Canto Bight sequence. If that is the pinnacle of Finn’s journey, it’s a good symbolic victory to go out on.