John Boyega was one of the breakout stars of the latest Star Wars trilogy. The British actor stunned audiences as Finn, a brainwashed stormtrooper who quickly realizes that there’s more to life than battling for the First Order.
However, while Finn is a heroic, albeit unimportant plot figure in the latest story, he believes that his black heritage was washed away. Fans agree with Boyega, although many can’t decide if he can ever correct this if he burns his bridge with Disney.
John Boyega on ‘Star Wars’
Boyega was already making waves with films like Attack the Block when he got the call that propelled him to the mainstream.
While Boyega immediately knew that this would change his career forever, he wanted to make sure that a Black man from England like himself was well-represented. He spoke about this with GQ.
“Obviously, at the time I was very genuinely happy to be a part of it. But my dad always tells me one thing: ‘Don’t overpay with respect.’ You can pay respect, but sometimes you’ll be overpaying and selling yourself short.”
In the script, Finn was not a black character. After all, he exists in a galaxy where hundreds of different species intermingle as friends, romantic partners, and occasionally, even robots. However, while Finn might not be the source of any racism in the universe itself, reality is different.
Boyega sees Finn, Rose, and other non-white characters as a whitewashed version of what could have been a poignant statement for a historically white franchise.
“You knew what to do with [Ridley, Isaac, and Driver], but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know f*** all. So what do you want me to say?” He said when asked about his public sparring with Disney.
Finn was a beloved character. While the real-life issues of race have rarely permeated Star Wars directly, other actors get to act more naturally within their skin. At the same time, Finn was stripped of any notable defining features of him as an individual. This is where Boyega takes offense to his portrayal.
Will John Boyega return to ‘Star Wars’?
Many Reddit users, like u/pigeondude_ believed that Finn was a great, incomplete character who has far more to show in future iterations. “I hope we can get future sequel content with Finn. He’s my favorite character of the new trilogy,” they wrote on Reddit.
However, others believe that Finn’s role was complete, and if he didn’t get a full arc in the sequel, a beloved actor like Harrison Ford did not, either.
“His character really evolves over the three movies,” wrote u/InfiniteDedekindCuts. While they acknowledged that Finn did not get the clean, nicely completed arc that some of the other characters got, it still fits right in with another beloved Star Wars staple. “So to me, if Finn was a “wasted” character, then so was Han. And I don’t think anyone would claim Han was a wasted character.
Others disagreed. When Star Wars came out, Ford was a known but far from famous actor. However, Han Solo made it through three movies without the force or other intergalactic magic, but skill. It elevated Ford to the A-List and got him to where he is today. Whether someone thinks that Han Solo had a complete arc, Star Wars was what gave us everything else in Ford’s career.
If Han Solo is the template that Boyega has to work off of with Finn, he might be on track to have a Ford-like career hereafter.
Does it even matter?
Boyega already proved that he does not need Star Wars to succeed before putting on the stormtrooper helmet or fighting off the Emperor’s army. Attack the Block was a massive hit, and several others came after that. However, his recent turn in the Amazon anthology series Small Axe shows that he’s not just a throwaway actor. He’s someone with a gift to give the audiences who have grown to love him.
The series focuses on several prominent black historical figures across England as they guide their way through a racial hierarchy both similar and different to that of America’s.
According to Gold Derby, Boyega plays a real-life black police officer named Leroy Logan, a man who tried to reform London’s racist police force. Critics love the performance. The series is less a standard television show and more a collection of films. To many, Boyega’s episode stood out.
Where Boyega goes from here, be it Star Wars, the Oscars, or somewhere in between, he’s already shown that he’s not afraid to speak up when he feels slighted. Whether his character got the shaft or not, Boyega’s star is on the rise. Can he be this trilogy’s Harrison Ford?
Perhaps not, but as Boyega notes, he doesn’t want to follow the archetype of people or characters before him. He wants to forge his own path to acclaim.