John Boyega Talks Star Wars Racism & Encounter With A Boatman In Calabar With British GQ

John Boyega GQ Magazine OnoBello

British-Nigerian actor John Boyega has graced the latest issue of British GQ  and he’s opening up in an exclusive tell-all interview about race, “Star Wars,” working with Disney and speaking at the Hyde Park Black Lives Matter protest.

The 28-year-old activist detailed his frustrations with the updated Star Wars trilogy, clarifying his longstanding issues with the franchise (and its fans). He also among other stories, his interesting experience eight years ago in Calabar where he was stranded at sea.

On his experience of being a black cast member: “I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race,” he says, holding my gaze. “Let’s just leave it like that. It makes you angry with a process like that. It makes you much more militant; it changes you. Because you realise, ‘I got given this opportunity but I’m in an industry that wasn’t even ready for me.’ Nobody else in the cast had people saying they were going to boycott the movie because [they were in it]. Nobody else had the uproar and death threats sent to their Instagram DMs and social media, saying, ‘Black this and black that and you shouldn’t be a Stormtrooper.’ Nobody else had that experience. But yet people are surprised that I’m this way. That’s my frustration.”

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“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” he says. “You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know fuck all. So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience…’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience. They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”

Boyega acknowledges that the films were an “amazing opportunity” and a “stepping stone” to things like inspiring an entire Black Lives Matter rally, but he won’t deny the challenges of acting while Black.

Boyega also recalled an standoff incident with a boatman in Calabar. According to GQ, he was 20 at the time and had just made his film debut in “Attack The Block,” when he returned to Nigeria to appear in the screen adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie “Half Of A Yellow Sun“.

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Boyega told the Magazine that he was scudding slowly out from the city of Calabar to a nearby riverside outpost called Creek Town, where the production hub was located, for what was supposed to be a 45 minutes journey. The boatman suddenly cut the engine, out on the water, and turned his attention to Boyega, saying that if Boyega wanted him to start the engine again, then he needed to hand over some more money.

“I felt very fearful, But I think it was the first time that I went into fight-or-flight mode and was just like, ‘OK, well, both of us are going to die today, then, because I’m definitely not going to back down.’ I told him, ‘I’m going to pay you the money that’s owed, but we’ll both be dying in the sea here if you think I’m going out like this or that you can get more from me.” he said.

Boyega said he recalled the expectant glances of the other passengers, the lapping sound of the water, the tense sway of the becalmed boat. Although it did not come to a confrontation, a police boat, manned by AK-47-toting officers was sent by the film’s production staff to look for him after 15 minutes.

Read the full interview here.

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