Star Wars actor John Boyega says non-white roles are 'pushed to the side' in franchise

The British actor John Boyega has criticised the treatment of non-white characters in the latest Star Wars films, saying they were marketed as important elements in the franchise but were ultimately “pushed to the side”.

In an interview published by GQ magazine on Wednesday, Boyega expressed bitterness over how his role as stormtrooper Finn faded in the latter episodes of the trilogy which concluded with The Rise of Skywalker in 2019.

“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,” he told the magazine.

He said fellow non-white actors Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran and Oscar Isaac had suffered similar fates, while Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley had taken prominence in the lead roles as Kylo Ren and Rey.

Boyega told GQ some people would accuse him of “making it up”, but the character hierarchy in The Last Jedi was hard to take.

“They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything,” Boyega said.

He said Star Wars didn’t know what to do with non-white characters.

“So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience...’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience.”

Boyega became a viral sensation in June when he gave an emotion-packed speech at an anti-racism demonstration in London following the death of George Floyd at the hands of American police in Minneapolis.

“I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race,” Boyega said of Star Wars. “Let’s just leave it like that.

“It makes you angry with a process like that. It makes you much more militant; it changes you.”

In his speech at the Black Lives Matter rally in London, he said: “Black lives have always mattered. We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless. And now is the time. I ain’t waiting.”

In a social media post afterwards Boyega added: “I know you’re all thinking, what’s next? Where do we go from here? Because I’m thinking the same shit! Conversations about black businesses, ownership and support are happening, and I will continue to have these conversations with the full intention of birthing ideas that are sustainable and tangible.”

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report