With the Star Wars franchise behind him, John Boyega has spoken with GQ about his experience making the recent trilogy and he basically feels that Lucasfilm/Disney had no idea what to with his character Finn in the two sequels after making him a huge deal during the marketing leading up to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
BOYEGA: “You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything. [But] 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.”
“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver. 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 fuck all. 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. 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.”
It is worth noting that during the release of The Force Awakens, John Boyega received a massive backlash from racists furious that a black actor was playing a Stromtrooper and there was call for a boycott claiming “white genocide”. The main gripe seemed to be folks were upset that a black character was getting a spotlight in a predominantly white franchise, despite Mace Windu and Lando Calrissian being established characters.
I imagine most people forgot this was even a thing, but here is a refresher of what happened after the first trailer reveal.
This was a small amount of people but it’s hard to ignore that Finn’s role in the subsequent sequels was drastically decreased and he became more of a supporting player like Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron. It would be hard to argue that Finn was one of the three main characters in The Force Awakens and his diminished arc was a little upsetting given that Colin Trevorrow’s Duel of The Fates would have had Finn in much more heroic and impactful role.
There is a strong possibility to avoid more racially-fueled backlash they rolled-back Finn a bit in Star Wars: The Last Jedi as he was relegated to a side character.
Kelly Marie Tran experienced her own wave of racist online bullying from the toxic side of fandom in the wake of her role as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which saw racial slurs being mixed into complaints of her performance and how the character was written.
This led the actress to quit social media.
In retrospect, Disney seemingly caved to both these weird racist reactions to Finn and Rose as they both saw their hierarchy in the franchise diminished, they also happened to be the two minority characters in the trilogy. Finn’s force sensitively that was teased in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was never fully realized and Rose’s screentime in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker essentially became a glorified cameo after having such a significant role in the previous film.
People also noticed that Disney’s merchandise for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker failed to include Rose leading up to the release, a possible attempt of an erasure of the character in light of the racist backlash from the last film.
It certainly feels like Disney just placed the characters into the background and pulled back on giving them a substantial journey to avoid anymore negative outrage and possibly in their minds targeted harassment. However, I think the latter would be a little harder to believe.
Disney and Lucasfilm certainly said how important the characters were in the press rounds but wasn’t really reflected on the screen.
John certainly is allowed to express his feelings and we were also frustrated by the creative choices made with his character after all the potential on display in The Force Awakens.