From the moment the first trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released, John Boyega was the subject of racist harassment from assholes who couldn’t fathom a galaxy with a Black stormtrooper. The fact that Finn is one of the best new characters the franchise has ever introduced didn’t seem to matter.
As Boyega added new depth to the Star Wars universe and charmed real fans, the bullying continued throughout the production and release of the final two films in the sequel trilogy. The strain of constantly dealing with trolls, combined with the lack of story for Finn, led the Attack the Block actor to step back from the franchise.
Now, as he promotes his upcoming film Breaking, he’s explaining how his experience changed the way Disney and other studios are handling racist attacks on actors. In an interview on SiriusXM’s Tell Me Everything With John Fugelsang, the Small Axe star discussed the harassment Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Moses Ingram recently dealt with and the support she received from co-star/executive producer Ewan McGregor.
“That’s the peace that I felt,” he said. “Moses Ingram being protected makes me feel protected. Do you understand what I’m saying? It makes me feel like, ‘Okay, cool. I am not the elephant in the room.’ Because when I started, it wasn’t really a conversation you could bring up. You know how they went through it. It was kind of like, ‘Let’s just be silent.’ It wasn’t a conversation you could bring up. But now to see how blatant it is, to see Ewan McGregor come and support…It, for me, fulfills my time where I didn’t get the support”
While most might feel upset that Black actors in the franchise are getting a level of support Boyega never received, he doesn’t feel that way.
“It doesn’t make me feel bitter at all. It makes me feel like sometimes you are that guy. And my dad taught me that,” he said. “Sometimes you’re not the guy to get the blessing and sometimes you are Moses, you lead the people to the mountain, but you see the destination. You don’t get to go in, you get others to go in. And that’s where you get your happiness from.”
As Ingram revealed the online attacks to the world, Disney, Lucasfilm and the official Star Wars twitter account all immediately jumped to her defense. The actress also explained that the studio and producers warned her to expect racist backlash.
“And for me to see other people accepted, and then at the same time to see that the studios now are like, ‘Okay, cool. This is not an elephant in the room conversation. We need to support our Black client.’ It’s fantastic,” the BAFTA-winner said.
Up next, Boyega can be seen in Breaking, which hits theaters Aug. 26 and The Woman King, set for release Sept. 16.