Watch: John Boyega talks to Yahoo about Star Wars and Small Axe
The Skywalker Saga is over, but Star Wars fans are still dreaming of the storylines they never got to see. That includes John Boyega, who starred in the final three instalments in the signature Star Wars series.
The British actor played First Order stormtrooper, Finn, who defected to the galaxy-saving Resistance in The Force Awakens, and fought alongside Jedi-in-training Rey (Daisy Ridley), hotshot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and steadfast soldier Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) in The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.
But Finn’s role diminished as the sequel trilogy progressed, a fact that Boyega himself commented on recently, calling out Disney for pushing his character “to the side.”
During a conversation with Yahoo Entertainment about his role in the upcoming Amazon Prime series, Small Axe, the actor revealed details about a storyline that could have kept him front and centre in the Skywalker Saga’s final act. “You’re the first journalist to ever ask me about that,” he says, with obvious excitement. “So I’m kind of realising what would have been.” (Watch our video interview above.)
As he’s introduced in J.J. Abrams’s Force Awakens, Finn seems destined to lead an uprising of other stormtroopers who have been forcibly conscripted into the First Order ranks. Elements of that storyline are present in The Rise of Skywalker, which Abrams returned to direct after Rian Johnson’s controversial tenure on The Last Jedi.
Midway through the movie, Finn meets a small band of First Order deserters — led by Naomi Ackie’s Jannah — and joins their grand horseback charge during the final battle over the Sith homeworld, Exegol. But Finn’s status as a revolutionary was an even bigger part of the Episode IX that never was: Colin Trevorrow’s Star Wars: Duel of the Fates.
The Jurassic World director was initially supposed to be behind the camera for the ninth Star Wars episode, before departing the film in September 2017. Abrams and his collaborator, Chris Terrio, subsequently rewrote the story from the ground-up, but fans got their first glimpse at Trevorrow’s plans when his screenplay leaked online in January.
In that version, Finn and Rose lead a class uprising on the galactic capital planet, Coruscant. Around the same time the script leaked, Collider posted concept art from Trevorrow’s film that showed Finn swinging the blue flag of rebellion, surrounded by Rose, Poe and Chewbacca.
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“I think Colin Trevorrow was going to tell that story,” Boyega says now, acknowledging that he’s seen — and loved — the unused concept art for Duel of the Fates. “That image of Finn with the blue flag, and you have the AT-ATs lined up with tribal marks, and the stormtroopers take off their helmets. That would have been sick! That would have been dope, man, hands down.”
Not for nothing, but that image of Finn carrying the blue flag is precisely the kind of big damn hero moment that Boyega felt was missing from The Rise of Skywalker, and one of the reasons he spoke up in the first place about the way the series sidelined its first Black hero since Lando Calrissian.
“I felt it was important for me to talk about a truth that is embarrassing to talk about,” he says. “We all know that what makes roles so lucrative [are] the moments you give them. If Captain America isn’t given the scenes to boost his representation, and to make him enjoyable for you guys, we won’t think he’s cool. Why shouldn’t Black characters and Black actors also fight for that same kind of representation? I think it’s a done deal with that.”
Of course, whenever Boyega speaks his truth about Star Wars, he’s accustomed to hearing from online trolls who accuse him of not being “grateful” enough for being part of the world’s most popular franchise.
After jokingly blaming his twin, “John Voyega” for routinely sparking controversy, the actor illustrates how he shakes off that kind of toxic fandom. “No one ever assumes the right thing of you — they’re always going to assume the most negative,” he notes. “If you’re saying something like that, it’s ‘He’s just trying to be prominent!’ Yeah, because I’m trying to do what I was offered! I’m trying to fulfill my job.”
As of now, Boyega considers himself retired from active Star Wars duty, moving onto projects like Small Axe, which recently premiered at the New York Film Festival to rave reviews. But if Disney ever decides to tell the story that Trevorrow sketched out for Finn — perhaps as an animated Disney+ series — he’d consider booking a trip back to the far, far away galaxy.
“I’m a Mandalorian fan, so Lucasfilm is doing very well with the TV shows,” he says, laughing. “An animated show would be dope! We could do it from home.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is currently streaming on Disney+; Small Axe premieres on BBC One and iPlayer on Sunday, 15 November 2020.