By David Itzkoff, the New York Times


Were they specifically looking for a nonwhite actor to play Finn?boyega_2

Everybody was being seen for all these roles. I would have been suspicious if it was only black people going in for Finn. I would have thought, “Oh, maybe there’s an active agenda there.” It looked like they were just trying to look for the best actors for the parts. But I put some friends on [audition] tape for Finn and Rey, early on, before I was ever called in.

Knowing that they were seeing these other actors, did you feel you were in competition against them?

I was up against myself most of the time, because I was so insecure about certain things. What your life could be is dangled right in front of you. And the other talented actors who are going up for these parts, too, are also going through that. That becomes a fixation.


When some people criticized the “Star Wars” trailer — even threatened to boycott the movie — because it showed a black actor in a stormtrooper uniform, how did that make you feel?

It made me feel fine. I’m grounded in who I am, and I am a confident black man. A confident, Nigerian, black, chocolate man. I’m proud of my heritage, and no man can take that away from me. I wasn’t raised to fear people with a difference of opinion. They are merely victims of a disease in their mind. To get into a serious dialogue with people who judge a person based on the melanin in their skin? They’re stupid, and I’m not going to lose sleep over people. The presale tickets have gone through the roof — their agenda has failed. Miserably.

You didn’t feel the urge to respond to these critics?

I just don’t get it. You guys got every single alien in this movie imaginable to man. With tentacles, five eyes. Aliens that, if they existed, we’d definitely have an issue. We’d have to get them to the government and be, like, “What are you?” Yet what you want to do is fixate on another human being’s color. You need to go back to school and unlearn what you have learned. I think Yoda said that, or Obi-Wan.

To this point, the “Star Wars” movies have featured few black characters. Are you proud that you’re helping to add diversity to the franchise?

Boyega in character as former stormtrooper Finn

Boyega in character as former stormtrooper Finn.

I don’t know whether I’m proud or anything. I’m happy that we’re able to mesh together in this ensemble cast and create a wonderful story. It’s Hollywood’s fault, for letting this get so far, that when a black person or a female, or someone from a different cultural group is cast in a movie, we have to have debates as to whether they’re placed there just to meet a [quota]. I also understand, on the flip side, where these other mentalities will arise. “He’s just placed there for political correctness.” I don’t hear you guys saying that when Brad Pitt is there. When Tom Cruise is there. Hell, when Shia LaBeouf is there, you guys ain’t saying that. That is just blatant racism.

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