Star Wars co-star John Boyega has been very vocal and active lately in his push to achieve greater forms of diversity and representation in the entertainment industry. But it’s likely that Boyega wouldn’t want to see the industry pivot to improved representation by leaving him on the cutting room floor. And yet, that’s what happened on an ad campaign that HE conceived, directed and starred in. An award-winning campaign, to boot. And now he’s getting a full apology.
John Boyega executed an award-winning ad campaign for Jo Malone. Titled “London Gent,” the commercial starred Boyega, and drew heavily from this climb to stardom after starting out in the normal Peckham neighborhoods of Great Britain. Well, when the commercial aired in China, Boyega was replaced by local actor Liu Haoran (according to The Hollywood Reporter), and that’s straight up nonsense. The error has been rectified, and the company issues a statement that reads:
We deeply apologize for what, on our end, was a mistake in the local execution of the John Boyega campaign. John is a tremendous artist with great personal vision and direction. The concept for the film was based on John’s personal experiences and should not have been replicated. While we immediately took action and removed the local version of the campaign, we recognize that this was painful and that offense was caused. We respect John, and support our partners and fans globally. We are taking this misstep very seriously and we are working together as a brand to do better moving forward.
For real, though, who let this happen? The “London Gent” ad that John Boyega conceived, shot and starred in last year went on to win The Fragrance Foundation Virtual Awards 2020 for Best Media Campaign. The spot features several; members of Boyega’s family as well as his close friends. It’s about as personal of a project as one might imagine, so RECASTING him is incredibly bad form.
Check out the ad. It’s really inventive.
All of this happens on the heels of John Boyega boldly calling out Walt Disney and Star Wars, specifically, for the way that the franchise pushed minority characters such as Finn and Rose Tico (played by Kelly Marie Tran) to the background of the narrative, in his opinion. This news also follows a controversy in which John Boyega’s face was reduced in size on the Chinese poster for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While in a recent interview with GQ, Boyega summed up his uneven time in the Star Wars universe by stating:
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.
John Boyega reportedly wasn’t consulted by Jo Malone on the creative change, and only learned about it when he saw the new ad on social media. Chinese actor Liu Haoran, a major star thanks to the Detective Chinatown series, also was not made aware of the creative changes when he was brought in to participate in the ad campaign. The apology is a good start by Jo Malone. We will see if Boyega lets bygones be bygones.