What John Boyega Learned From His Star Wars Casting Controversy

John Boyega

The first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens surprised a lot of people when the first image we saw was John Boyega, dressed as a Stormtrooper. A scary number of people had a problem with that image. However, Boyega says that the controversy over his casting taught him something useful. By seeing how racists reacted to his role in Star Wars, as well as how others responded positively, he was better able to understand the motivations of characters in his new film, Detroit. According to Boyega...

I was reminded of my color in a way that had nothing to do with the helmet. It doesn't matter where you go --- a few ignorant individuals will come in and make comments about your race. Even though when you look behind the curtain it's a bunch of idiots. A racist situation led me to see how ugly this world could be, but also led me to see that a lot of people aren't racist.

John Boyega didn't have a lot of patience for the people who had a problem with a black man playing a Stormtrooper but it was something that he found himself involved in nonetheless. Boyega was forced to confront some of the worst that humanity has to offer as people were happy to complain about the race of an actor without having even seen the movie in question. However, Boyega tells the Los Angeles Times that he also saw the other side of the coin, that a lot of people aren't racist. He compares this to the character he plays in Detroit, security guard Melvin Dismukes, who Boyega says also "saw multiple sides of a situation."

The fact that John Boyega had to deal with racism simply for being cast in a movie is terrible, but it's good to know that he also saw positives during the experience as well. Most people aren't like the worst among us. While many of the characters in Detroit do some despicable things, they're not representative of the population as a whole. While the events that the film depicts really happened, and show an ugly side to America, it's when some people are behaving at their worst that you can clearly see the people who don't give in to their baser instincts. If there's a bright side to the entire experience, it's apparently that Boyega was able to use it for the benefit of the movie.

Detroit is getting strongly positive reviews and it looks like another critical win for director Kathryn Bigelow. Detroit is in theaters Friday. John Boyega continues in his role as Finn, whether people like it or not, when Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives in December.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.