In a new article highlighting Episode VII, Entertainment Weekly sat down with two of the new stars from The Force Awakens, Daisy Ridley (Rey) and John Boyega (Finn) to discuss their characters and what it was like being a part of Star Wars. Namely, the two addressed the diversity of their characters, with director J.J. Abrams weighing in.
"“Writing this script with Larry Kasdan, I didn’t know what Rey was going to look like, I didn’t know what Finn or Poe would look like. I just knew that this movie needed to look the way the world looks,” director and co-writer J.J. Abrams tells EW."
The diversity of Ridley and Boyega has been a source of “public discussion,” and, sadly, controversy. Ridley says, “John and I had a conversation last year and we both knew that was how it was going to be. He was going to be the black guy and I was going to be the girl… I think neither of those things could ever be a bad thing.”
Boyega is done with the racist critics.
"“We’ve been having a continuous struggle with idiots, and now we should just force them to understand – and I love the way I just used Force there, by the way – just force people to see this is the new world,” he says. “There are loads of people of different shades and backgrounds. Get used to it.”"
Both actress and actor want audiences to connect to their characters, regardless of their gender and race.
"“What we’ve seen of Rey, she looks like she can handle her stuff… So most of the comments I get are from parents who say how wonderful it is that their little girls can see this character… My main thing is that people connect with her, regardless of gender, color, age,” says Ridley…"
Boyega adds, “We see through the eyes of children that they’re not talking about race the way we grown folks are. They’re not talking about color or how much melanin is in someone’s skin. That should teach us something.”
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One of Rey’s greatest attractions is, per Ridley, “She’s a normal girl going on a journey.” Calling her a hero or a heroine is, “almost wrong,” because she’s just a person. Much like Anakin and Luke were before they began their hero’s journeys (hmm, wonder if there’s a relationship there- okay, I’ll stop now).
Of course, Ridley and Boyega are as much Star Wars fans as they are members of the cast. Those two worlds collided when they were on board the Millennium Falcon and shooting with Harrison Ford.
Ridley recalls a moment where Ford gave her some advice on flip-switching.
"“I was doing random switch-flipping and Harrison kind of put his hand out and said, no, everything had to have a purpose. Like, you flip a switch and then you see what it does, before you do anything else,” she says. “I was probably flipping switches too quickly!”"
In another instance, Ridley got a little too comfortable sitting in the captain’s chair.
"“There’s a shot where I pilot the Falcon by myself. And then [on another day] Harrison and I went to film together. I went to get into the pilot seat and he was like, ‘That’s mine,’ and I was genuinely mortified. And J.J. was sitting there like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God.’ And, you know, I moved into the co-pilot seat.”"
Boyega had his own fanboy experiences in practicing and performing his lightsaber battle with Adam Driver, AKA Kylo Ren.
"“It started in rehearsals. We had [Kylo Ren actor] Adam Driver. That was the first time ever I had a stick in my hand that I could pretend was a lightsaber, which was the first stage of excitement,” he says. “I had to do all the sound effects and stuff by myself.”"
When they filmed the scenes, Boyega was given a “real saber” that made everything more real. “‘That’s when I got the real saber, which is blue, it’s lighted, and just looks really epic,’ Boyega says. ‘It felt monumental in my hand. I knew not to play like I used to when I was a kid, but to actually use it in serious combat for a scene. It’s absolutely crazy to have in your hand. It’s a bit heavy but it’s worth it.'”
Just reading what they have to say about working on set, and also about their characters and their evolution, makes me appreciate the work that went into creating this movie. I love how the cast members and script writers treating diversity with respect and dignity, and acknowledging it as a part of life rather than resorting to tokenism.
Also, who else thinks that the behind the scenes Blu Ray features for The Force Awakens are going to be shiploads of fun with Ridley and Boyega?