John Boyega spent years dealing with racist trolls as he filmed the latest Star Wars trilogy—so it should come as no surprise that he’s not done speaking out about it yet.
John Boyega’s face became fans’ first introduction to the new trilogy when The Force Awakens debuted its first trailer in the fall of 2014 and opened on his character—a rogue Stormtrooper named Finn. Although millions of fans were delighted, racist trolls emerged from the very beginning—and relentlessly harassed the British actor in the years that followed.
Speaking with Variety and The Hollywood Reporter this week, Boyega revealed that he’s spoken with Disney and laid out how he believes the studio could better support performers of color—and he’s eager to speak with other execs as well.
“When one of your actors, especially an actor that’s so prominent in the story, is announced as part of your franchise and then has a big racial backlash and receives abuse online and that starts to kind of form a shadow on what is supposed to be an amazing gift, it’s important for the studios to definitely lend their voice, lend their support to that and to have a sense of solidarity not just in the public eye, but on the ground on set,” Boyega told Variety, as first reported by IndieWire.
Boyega has been frank about his experience in the Star Wars universe for years. He’s spoken in multiple interviews about how his character—initially marketed as a marquee player—shrank in The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, while Disney and Lucasfilm stayed mum despite the racist harassment he faced.
Back in September Boyega got especially candid in an interview with British GQ—in which he told the magazine that Star Wars writers knew “fuck all” about how to write characters of color like Finn and Rose Tico. (Kelly Marie Tran, who played the plucky maintenance worker, also faced revolting racist and sexist backlash from toxic “fans” after The Last Jedi released.) “What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience...’” Boyega told GQ. “Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience.”
The interview went viral—and soon enough, as Boyega told The Hollywood Reporter this week, Disney wanted to talk.
“It was a very honest, a very transparent conversation,” the actor told THR. “There was a lot of explaining on their end in terms of the way they saw things. They gave me a chance also to explain what my experience was like. I’d hope that me being so open with my career, at this stage, would help the next man, the guy that wants to be the assistant DOP, the guy that wants to be a producer. I hope that the conversation is not such a taboo or elephant in the room now, because someone just came and said it.”
Speaking with Variety, Boyega added, “These are honest conversations that I have had with the powers that be about having more awareness... Next time you cast someone in that position, bring them through the process, they need that support. They can’t get Boyega’d.”