John Boyega has never shied away from speaking out about the racist bullying he received for his work as Finn in the “Star Wars” franchise. Things got so bad, he convened a meeting with Disney and Lucasfilm execs to express his disappointment in their lack of support during the targeted attacks.
While Boyega has now said he has no plans to return to “Star Wars,” he’s proud of “Obi-Wan” star Ewan McGregor coming to his co-star Moses Ingram’s defense after she became the target of online hate when their series premiered on Disney+ in May.
“I don’t know how Disney have done, and I don’t know how they’ve moved with everything,” Boyega tells me on this week’s episode of the “Just for Variety” podcast. “All I know is about specifically Lucasfilm, about the Obi-Wan Kenobi stuff. And I saw that Ewan McGregor video. And that kind of got me, that was nice. That got me a little emotional on that. That’s cool that he showed up for her like that. That’s cool.”
McGregor shared a message about Moses on Star Wars’ social media pages on June 1. “It seems that some of the fan base has decided to attack Moses Ingram online and send her the most horrendous, racist [direct messages]. I heard some of them this morning and it just broke my heart,” McGregor said in a video message.
Calling Moses “a brilliant actor [and] a brilliant woman,” McGregor went on to say, “As the leading actor in the series, as the executive producer on the series… we stand with Moses.”
I caught up with Boyega while he was promoting his new dramatic thriller, “Breaking.” Based on a true story, the actor stars in the film as Brian Brown-Easley, a Marine veteran who took several people hostage in a bank in 2017 after saying he was mistreated by Veterans Affairs.
“For me as an actor, it was about immersing myself in the experience, understanding what it’s actually like for people who go through this scenario in real life and comparing those general points and notes to what Brian’s specific situation is,” Boyega explains. “Because I can’t just go in only wanting to know what Brian’s situation is. It’s just having a full scope of what it actually feels like, what makes a person decide to even join the army, to want to go out there and fight and defend.”
He continues, “Thank the lord for the information that we have out there, both in terms of obviously the scripts, documentation and then the internet. I was just immersing myself in what the perspective is. How do they actually feel? Not all the academic stuff, but how do they actually feel going through this process? And in what way can I embody that when I go to perform?”
While the work was emotional and intense, Boyega says he was able to put it aside when cameras stopped rolling for the day. “I’ve always kept a steady sense of just the third person, which is the John Boyega way,” he says. “I always say, ‘He’s waiting at the trailer door. He’s just grinning. He’s got cool clothes on, his nice chains on.’ And he’s telling the actor, ‘Let it go, and let’s just go home.’ … I felt quite comfortable taking off the crown of Brian, as I would say, [and putting] on a hat.”
You may have seen Boyega on a recent cover of Men’s Health showing off his very muscled body. While he did have to bulk up for his role opposite Viola Davis in upcoming film “The Woman King,” he began working on his fitness during COVID lockdown. “I got in a gym during the pandemic,” Boyega says. “And decided that I would just get healthy, just get more healthy to be able to think more straight.”
Listen to the full interview with Boyega above. You can also find “Just for Variety” wherever you download your favorite podcasts.