‘Rise of Skywalker’ star John Boyega on Black Brits In Hollywood: “Maybe there is a bias”

John Boyega thegrio.com
(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

John Boyega is ready to take Finn on one final ride in Rise of Skywalker, and the actor admits completing the third and final installment of the franchise is bittersweet. 

“Of course I’m sad. It’s such a big universe. The Skywalker story just spans a whole generation so being a part of it has been an honor,” he told theGrio. “I was much more confident going into this film because we all know each other now and know each other’s energy. I knew it would be much more enjoyable and I would be much more comfortable.”

When Boyega starred in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015, he invited a whole ew demographic to see themselves in the film franchise that has been light on Black faces throughout its history. 

“I loved being a part of the moment of what is to many people a representation of themselves really. That to me has always been quite exciting. Especially in this space, the mainstream space. Normally you wouldn’t see those faces,” he says. “I still think there are bigger steps to be taken as far as Back individuals being real leads instead of co-star leads without it being subjected to the role of like ‘Black Panther’. Obviously everyone is going to be Black in that. To be part of that journey has been really pretty cool.”

His success has helped to pave the way for more Black actors to join in on the fun, including newbie Naomi Ackie. 

“There’s a nice bond and connection with Naomi. We’re all very excited for her. I have seen her journey and I know it has taken a long time for her to get the part. Being with her and re-experiencing Star Wars in a new way was nice and fresh for me,” he explains. “It was kind of like, thinking of the things I wish someone had told me. We would just riff and we have great chemistry that a lot of people are going to notice in the film.”

EXCLUSIVE: John Boyega on Black Brits taking over and how faith fuels his success

The London-born actor also weighed in on the controversy surrounding Black British actors nabbing prominent roles in American films. Tons of folks took issue with Cynthia Erivo portraying Harriet Tubman in Harriet because of the idea that she isn’t a descendant of American slaves. Others, like Samuel L. Jackson, have suggested that Black British actors tend to get a leg up on their American counterparts, nabbing roles that could go to thespians from the U.S. 

“I think it’s an important conversation and it’s not a conversation that should not be dismissed. My view on it is that it can never be African Americans vs. Black Brits. We can never show out to the world like that. Especially not now,” he says. 

“We have to make sure that the powers that be are not forcing us into a ‘crabs in a barrel’ situation. I think that we can never look at the next man and take away his individuality and say that he shouldn’t go out for certain roles because of this and that. That’s when the conversation starts to become a lot more confrontational.”

Boyega makes art clear that the has no patience for people who put down Black British actors who are finding success in the states and makes a strong point about the fundamentals of acting.

“Maybe there is a bias but I guarantee you, even if there is a bias, that’s not gonna stop anybody from England or France or Australia to keep traveling down and wanting to make the best of it for their lives. For me , it’s about the conversations being accurate and people’s realities and so far the danger has been us speaking about this and erasing the specific details of how people have made what they have made and understanding that it’s very disrespectful to say to the next man that he shouldn’t have achieved what he has achieved and he shouldn’t play a certain part because he’s not from that place. I mean, it kind of goes against the whole concept of acting.”

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He also points out that instead of feeling slighted, African American actors should recognize that their work has inspired people of color across the globe. 

“At the same time, it also limits the dream; the African American dream. It limits the power that you lot have had. For me, my reaction would be like, ‘Wow, look at these Black people across the pond who have been inspired by what we have done so much so that they are like, we’re gonna go down there and be one of the many faces and be at the forefront of this movement.’ 

Overall, Boyega wants Black folks in Hollywood to maintain a united front. 

“I’m not one of the Twitter people or a person who is merely giving opinions. I’m part of this conversation and I am in this conversation and I guarantee you that our best option is to stay united even if we have different views. We should stay united and healthy instead of it turning into us versus them because I’m telling you that conflict right there don’t give us no answers at all.” 

John Boyega has a ton of roles lined up, including starring in the upcoming thriller, They Cloned Tyrone, Steve McQueen’s Small Acts and an action film entitled Rebel Ridge, so he’s hoping to rest up over the holidays. 

“I was supposed to travel to Ghana and Nigeria but with the travel of this press tour I need to recover. I’m gonna stay home and be with family and friends. I’ll invite everybody over to have Christmas dinner and just keep it chill,” he says. “I’m training for They Cloned Tyrone so I may be training on Christmas Day which is a bit mad.”