John Boyega Bravely Exposes Lucasfilm and Disney’s Problematic Treatment Of Minority Characters In Star Wars

In a recent interview, actor John Boyega gets honest about Disney's mishandling of Finn and other minority characters in the latest Star Wars trilogy.
Star Wars Finn John Boyega

In a recent interview, actor John Boyega gets honest about Disney’s mishandling of Finn and other minority characters in the latest Star Wars trilogy.

Last year saw the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, that despite the film grossing over one billion dollars worldwide, is seen as far from an unmitigated success. The final chapter in the cinematic space opera, that has been following the Skywalker lineage since the original’s debut in 1977, brought the saga to a divisive close.

Since the film’s debut, critics and fans alike have examined the hastily put together script and story decisions, while others simply wondered why so many story threads never paid off. One of the the film’s most visible critics is one of its stars, John Boyega. In a new interview with GQ, the Star Wars star says what many of us have been thinking about his and other minority actors involvement in the Star Wars franchise.

John Boyega On Falsely Marketing Finn As a Jedi

Star Wars Finn Lightsaber The Force Awakens Marketing John Boyega

When the first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens dropped in late 2014, the world was floored by the image of a Stormtrooper alone in the desert. He then removes his helmet to reveal Finn sweating, panting, and scared. You don’t have look far into film history to recognize the troubling history of African-American’s portrayal in cinema to understand how that image could be problematic. However, the marketing for the film offered a new hope. Finn, a black man in the Star Wars universe wielding a lightsaber that appeared to be Luke Skywalker’s.

Here is what John Boyega had to say about the initial marketing:

“Everybody needs to leave my boy [J.J. Abrams] alone. He wasn’t even supposed to come back and try to save your shit. 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.”

That poster lit up the imagination of the black community. While Samuel L. Jackson had previously played a Jedi in a small supporting role in previous installments, The Force Awakens’ marketing promised to feature a heroic black Jedi in a leading role. When audiences sat down to watch the movie in 2015 they discovered that John Boyega’s Finn was not only a Stormtrooper, but an intergalactic garbage man for the Empire. (I can’t make this stuff up.)


In the film’s climax, he does indeed wield the lightsaber, but is unable to protect his new love and ultimately is horribly scarred on his back. Which also brings to mind the violent imagery of real world American slavery on blacks to add insult to injury. However, there was still hope for the future of Finn’s character. Many were convinced that Lucasfilm was creating a heroic arc for Finn and by the time the trilogy closed, he would become the hero that Disney marketed him to become. But, that faith was misguided.

[Click on Page 2 for John Boyega’s continued thoughts.]


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Braxter Timberlake

Braxter Timberlake was born in New York and raised in California. He’s a graduate of UC Berkeley and the School of Hard Knocks and is always in search of the next adventure. The daring writer and editor of The Illuminerdi is also a veteran of film and television production, with an unquenchable thirst for stories, whether on the comic page, video game console, or small, medium, or the big screen. After years of expeditions in search of K’un-Lun and Wakanda, he now spends his time investigating all things geek and shares his spoilery findings with anyone with open ears. Aside from on the internet, he can be found on the basketball court, hiking with his dog, or at a screening near you.