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How racism defined John Boyega’s Star Wars experience

Disney and the Star Wars franchise denounced by Boyega, who says his experience while filming has ‘changed him’.

John Boyega has said he’s disappointed with the way non-white characters were written and treated during the production of recent Disney Star Wars films.

His role as Finn in all three of the newest main trilogy entries in particular was played down as the series continued. You might remember early teasers for 2015’s ‘The Force Awakens’ implied Finn would be the pivotal character throughout. He’s literally the first new person we were introduced to at the very beginning.

By the final film, ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, Finn’s importance as a central protagonist had been significantly reduced. He went from a lightsabre wielding ex-Stormtrooper to a diluted sidekick for Daisy Ridley’s Ray Skywalker, and many fans and critics noticed the change.

Boyega recently spoke to GQ about his time with  LucasArts and Disney, expressing frustration at how his and other cast members of colours roles were mishandled throughout the trilogy. ‘You guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver. But when it came to Kelly Marie Tran (who played Resistance rebel Rose), when it came to John Boyega, you know fuck all’.

John faced racial abuse from the outset when Finn was revealed to the world for ‘The Force Awakens’ in 2015. He describes his time within the Star Wars universe as grimly unique, given the amount of racial hate he was instantly subjected to. ‘Nobody else in the cast had people saying they were going to boycott the movie, nobody else had the uproar and death threats sent to their Instagram DMs’.

He specifically called out Disney, warning them in future to ‘not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important than they are and have them pushed to the side’. Boyega’s experience within Hollywood has been defined by race in many ways, and it’s a reality that he’s had to confront both professionally and personally.

During recent Black Lives Matter protests in Hyde Park, Boyega made a spontaneous and impassioned speech about the black experience in Britain. Speaking to the crowds, he exclaimed ‘you all know the first time you were reminded that you were black. What we’re trying to do here is vital.’

Beyond his ongoing activism in the UK, John also plans to tour schools to promote careers in film and television for underrepresented minorities as soon as it’s possible. It’s clear that he’s eager to transform the acting experience for the generations of stars that will follow on from him, and hopefully Disney will take note of his comments toward its chaotic and racially biased story writing for the future.