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John Boyega: Studios Need to Speak Up and Protect Actors from Racist, Sexist Online Abuse

The "Star Wars" actor is urging studios to "lend their voices" to the fight against toxic fandom.

John Boyega

John Boyega

Press Association via AP Images

John Boyega is calling on Hollywood film studios to speak up in support of actors who become the target of racist and/or sexist online abuse. Boyega experienced toxic fandom firsthand as a Black man leading the most recent “Star Wars” trilogy, a franchise that saw cast members Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran also receive an abundance of online harassment from fans upset with the inclusive casting. Toxic fandom has also made Brie Larson of “Captain Marvel” and Lashana Lynch of “No Time to Die” the victims of online abuse, among others.

In an interview with Variety this week, Boyega said studios must get publicly involved in the fight against toxic fandom, explaining, “When one of your actors, especially an actor that’s so prominent in the story, is announced as part of your franchise and then it has a big racial backlash and receives abuse online and that starts to form a shadow on what is supposed to be an amazing gift, it is important for the studios to definitely lend their voice, lend their support to that and to have a sense of solidarity not just in the public eye, but on the ground on set.”

Boyega has been one of the most outspoken actors when it comes to the relationship among studios, major film franchises, and POC actors. Boyega criticized his “Star Wars” trilogy for sidelining characters of color and urged Disney not to promote franchises on the basis of its POC characters and then neglect to give said characters narrative importance. Boyega said his criticisms led to a “very transparent” conversation with a Disney executive about how the studio can do better by its POC actors and characters in the future.

As Boyega said to GQ magazine in September, “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.”

With “Star Wars” behind him, Boyega next joins forces with Steve McQueen for a film in the director’s Amazon anthology series “Small Axe.” The actor leads the “Small Axe” entry “Red, White and Blue,” which debuted to strong acclaim at the New York Film Festival.

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