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‘It Is Important for the Studios to Definitely Lend Their Voice’: John Boyega on Dealing with Racism from Fans

British actor John Boyega is holding Hollywood accountable. The 28-year-old experienced racism at the hand of fans as a Black cast member in the latest “Star Wars” trilogy. The star is now calling on film studios to speak up for their actors who become targets for racist and sexist abuse online.

During an interview with Variety, the “Detroit” star said studios must speak out publicly against toxic fandom and social media accounts that participate in online harassment. 

Fragrance brand apologizes to John Boyega after editing him out of an ad he created and directed. (Photo source: John Boyega’s Instagram Account)

“When one of your actors, especially an actor that’s so prominent in the story, is announced as part of your franchise and then it has a big racial backlash and receives abuse online, and that starts to form a shadow on what is supposed to be an amazing gift,” the actor explained. 

He added, “It is important for the studios to definitely lend their voice, lend their support to that and to have a sense of solidarity not just in the public eye, but on the ground on set.”

Boyega’s request for support comes after the actor called out Disney, claiming that his “Star Wars” character was “pushed to the side” after initially being at the forefront of the sci-fi/action franchise. Boyega’s character Finn — one of the few Black characters in the “Star Wars” films — was unveiled to fans as a critical player in the trilogy.

In 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” Finn even had his lightsaber. Still, in subsequent films, he progressively faded to the back alongside Kelly Marie Tran — an Asian American — who emerged as a leading character in the new trilogy’s second film but was mostly absent in the third.

At the time, Boyega said, “You get yourself involved in a project, and you’re not necessarily going to like everything.” He added, “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.”

As fate would have it, the actor revealed that he got the opportunity to have a conversation with Disney executives. The actor told The Hollywood Reporter that “it was a very honest, a very transparent conversation.” He added, “There was a lof explaining on their end in terms of the way they saw things. They gave me a chance also to explain what my experience was like.”

Boyega expressed that he felt that he needed to speak up now in hopes of changing the environment for rising Black actors and other non-white actors coming behind him in the industry.

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