John Boyega reflects on his powerful Hyde Park speech

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John Boyega
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By Kerri-Ann Roper, PA Entertainment Editor

John Boyega has said he looks back on the speech he gave in June this year during a Black Lives Matter march as still a “blur”.

The actor stood with protesters as he delivered an emotional speech in London’s Hyde Park, saying he did not care if speaking out harmed his career.

He told BBC Breakfast: “I look back at it as if it was a blur, you know I didn’t plan for it to happen, it’s still a lot for me to process but at the same time it’s also looking back at the fears that I embodied and some fears that I still have that come from a natural place, and natural experiences.

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“Looking from the outside in, what it looked like: ‘Mate you’ll be fine, you’ll be cool’, but in that moment just being overwhelmed by so many people looking up and seeing, you know, international news helicopters taking in the speech I was making it was like ‘OK cool, now I’m not just speaking to people that follow me, I’m speaking to the world’.”

Boyega, 28, will next be seen playing real-life Metropolitan Police officer and anti-racism reformer Leroy Logan in Sir Steve McQueen’s anthology series Small Axe.

The Small Axe film titled Red, White and Blue follows Mr Logan as he decides to reform the force from within after seeing his father assaulted by two officers.

Mr Logan was awarded an MBE in 2001 for his contribution to policing and retired in 2013 after 30 years’ service.

The Star Wars actor, who played Finn, the franchise’s first black Stormtrooper in the recent trilogy alongside Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, also recounted a conversation he had with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.

During an interview with British GQ in September, he had accused Disney of marketing his character in Star Wars as an important figure before pushing him aside.

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He had claimed Disney, which distributes Star Wars, had given more “nuance” to his co-stars and suggested the company did not know how to treat him as a black actor.

But he said he had since had a “transparent and honest” conversation with Kennedy which had been “beneficial for both of us”.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It was really good being able to do that but the most important thing for me now is that knowing, because these types of conversations you can go into the realm of sounding like you are just trying to save your own career but what is great now is it’s now a conversation that anyone has access to.

“Because now it’s been given this ear and it’s acknowledged in this way now people can express themselves about this in knowing any character we love especially in these big franchises like the Marvels or the Star Wars.

“We love them (the characters) because of the moments they are given, we love them because of those moments and they’re heroic moments that these producers all decide for these characters so we need to see that in our characters that may be black and from other cultures.”

Red, White and Blue, the third film from Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology, airs on BBC One and iPlayer at 9pm on November 29.

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