John Boyega found himself at the center of controversy this week because of an interview with Variety in which it appeared he was calling his “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” co-star Kelly Marie Tran “weak” for her response to fan harassment. Tran deleted her Instagram account following “The Last Jedi” release because her comments section was being flooded with racist and misogynistic comments from toxic fans. Variety reporter Adam B. Vary brought up “what happened to Tran” while interviewing Boyega, to which Boyega replied, “Through social media, we get to engage, we get to have fun. But at the same time, for those who are not mentally strong, you are weak to believe in every single thing that you read.”
Many “Star Wars” fans interpreted Boyega’s quote to Variety as the actor calling Tran weak for leaving social media temporarily because of online harassment. Boyega took to social media to clarify his quote, saying that he was not talking about Tran specifically when he was discussing responses to social media backlash.
“In no way was I referring to Kelly when I made my comments hough the interviewer mentioned her given the topic,” Boyega said. “I was really speaking from my own perspective throughout this franchise. Sometimes I've felt strong and sometimes I've felt weak. Badly worded though. I apologize.”
Boyega’s original full quote to Variety reads: “Being in this position, you just understand the masses, how the masses think, you know. Through social media, we get to engage, we get to have fun. But at the same time, for those who are not mentally strong, you are weak to believe in every single thing that you read. That's, you know, it is what it is. I don't know, for me anyway, when I see that [backlash], I'm like, well, that's actually not true. But no, it is actually not true. So it's kind of like [ shrugs] it is what it is. But to engage, to connect with the fans who otherwise wouldn't get a day to day experience, especially during things like the press tour, and behind the scenes stuff, is always good.”
Boyega has long stood up for Tran following the release of “The Last Jedi.” The actor took to social media in June 2018 to slam “Star Wars” fans who were harassing actors. “If you don't like 'Star Wars' or the characters understand that there are decision makers and harassing the actors/actresses will do nothing,” the actor said at the time. “You're not entitled to politeness when your approach is rude. Even if you paid for a ticket!”
Both Boyega and Tran are returning to the “Star Wars” franchise with the upcoming “The Rise of Skywalker,” in theaters nationwide December 20.
In no way was I referring to Kelly when I made my comments hough the interviewer mentioned her given the topic. I was really speaking from my own perspective throughout this franchise. Sometimes I've felt strong and sometimes I've felt weak. Badly worded though. I apologize.
When Kelly Marie Tran made her debut in Star Wars: The Last Jedi as the lowly Resistance mechanic Rose Tico, she represented several things rarely seen in a Star Wars film: she was the first woman of color to play a lead in a Star Wars movie and she was the first character in the main feature film franchise to give a voice to the countless victims of the war raging throughout the galaxy far, far away. In a sci-fi franchise about princesses and smugglers and chosen heroes, Rose Tico was the normal civilian who rose to be a hero and articulated the overall message of The Last Jedi: “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.”
But in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Rose was all but missing from action. Barely acknowledged by Finn, her presumable love interest with whom she had just gone on a planet-hopping journey, and reduced to looking at starship plans for two hours, she was badly sidelined in the movie apparently due to technical troubles. But Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu has a solution: a Rose Tico TV show on Disney+. And he is offering to direct it.
Jon M. Chu is joining the masses who are decrying the sidelining of Rose Tico. The director of Crazy Rich Asians and In the Heights has long been a supporter of diverse stories and creators, and he recently used his clout to show support for a character who had been the target of extreme, often racist, vitriol.
“Ok @disneyplus. Put me in coach. Let’s make this series happen,” Chu tweeted on Friday, adding the hashtag #RoseTicoDeservedBetter before tagging the @starwars handle.
Ok @disneyplus . Put me in coach. Let’s make this series happen. #RoseTicoDeservedBetter @starwars
— Jon M. Chu @jonmchu December 27, 2019
Nothing has come from Chu’s call to action yet, except for the tweet going viral and sparking another wave of sympathy for Tran’s character. Director J.J. Abrams‘ co-writer Chris Terrio lamely explained that the reason Rose was pushed to the background of The Rise of Skywalker was because of the “difficulty” in creating the CGI for General Leia Organa out of archival footage of Carrie Fisher. But Terrio didn’t address how the extreme racist backlash to Rose in the aftermath of The Last Jedi got so bad that Tran left social media — backlash that The Rise of Skywalker team inadvertently validated by sidelining Rose Tico. However, Disney could still make good if they gave the character a Disney+ TV show of her own — perhaps in the vein of the fan art that popped up in response to Rose’s absence from The Rise of Skywalker merchandise and marketing.
It wouldn’t be the first time characters from the Star Wars films made the transition to TV: Rogue...
Now that he’s done with Star Wars, John Boyega is using his clout to get some new projects off the ground. The actor just signed a deal with Netflix through his production company, UpperRoom Productions, to develop non-English language films, with a focus on West and East Africa countries. The streaming service says its all part of a plan to reinforce its investment in African storytelling with projects developed in African countries.
John Boyega’s UpperRoom Productions is teaming with Netflix to “develop film projects based on stories, cast, characters, crew, literary properties, mythology, screenplays and/or other elements in or around African countries, with a focus on West and East Africa.” Boyega, who was recently seen in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, is next set to appear in Chase Palmer’s Naked Singularity. He’s also set for the Netflix film Rebel Ridge, from director Jeremy Saulnier. Boyega previously came aboard the South African crime-thriller God Is Good as an executive producer and will also oversee the movie’s soundtrack.
“I am thrilled to partner with Netflix to develop a slate of non-English language feature films focused on African stories and my team and I are excited to develop original material,” said Boyega. “We are proud to grow this arm of our business with a company that shares our vision.” Boyega set up UpperRoom in 2016 as part of his producing role on Pacific Rim Uprising.
Netflix wants to increase its African created-based content, having recently announced production on its first original scripted series from Nigeria, the still-untilted Akin Omotoso Project. They’ve also announced other African originals, Blood & Water and Mama K’s Team 4, that will premiere later this year and join Netflix’s first Africa Original, Queen Sono, which dropped on February 28.
“Africa has a rich history in storytelling and for Netflix, this partnership with John and UpperRoom presents an opportunity to further our investment in the continent while bringing unique African stories to our members both in Africa and around the world,” said David Kosse, Vice President of International Film at Netflix.