Earlier this week, Sarah wrote that Mangrove, the first film in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series, is “vital viewing”. Sarah’s review of each installment will be posted each week. Lovers Rock is the second film and that piece is coming Monday. After that it’ll be Red, White, and Blue starring John Boyega.
John was named Icon of the Year by British GQ and last night attended the virtual celebration.
He is an icon because he continues to challenge the status quo, willing to say the uncomfortable thing because it’s the right thing. This year he marched and stood and wept with Black Lives Matter protestors denouncing white supremacy, sharing that even though he could lose his career, justice was the only priority. He also called out Disney and the Star Wars franchise for marginalising his and other BIPOC characters. And he cut ties with Joe Malone as their brand ambassador after they disappeared him from an ad campaign for the Chinese market that was about HIS life, HIS upbringing, HIS culture. So, yes, John Boyega is willing to leave the money on the table when the money stinks.
John tells GQ that he has no interest in letting Jo Malone make it up to him, he has since had “transparent, open conversation” with JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm and he’s encouraged that even though he told them about themselves in the most public way possible, they may actually be interested in doing better. Maybe.
“Without specifying the substance of these conversations, he – somewhat intriguingly – mentions the fact that Kennedy is mounting an adaptation of West African-inspired fantasy bestseller Children Of Blood And Bone as “exciting”. And, moreover, it is a reminder that what can look, from the outside, like reckless bridge-burning is actually an urgent plea for a more equal exchange of ideas. Or, as Boyega himself put it the last time we spoke, sometimes you just have to be mad.”
As John has made clear, being a Black actor in a mega franchise like Star Wars, which is the property of an institution like Disney, as status quo as it gets, was to experience every day that that world, both real and imagined, wasn’t built for him. So when he talks about working with Steve McQueen, you can imagine the difference it made:
“After everything that’s happened in my career and life it was so important for me to work with Steve McQueen,” he says. “He’s sort of like my guardian angel in the form of a director. And it’s the safest I’ve ever felt.”
The key word here is “safest”. And I wonder whether or not JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy will read that and consider then how unsafe John felt when he was working with them; these are two of the most successful people in the business and they’ve been told that they were lacking in what is a workplace basic – providing a safe space. That’s a failure of leadership. As bosses they failed to protect their artists but as creatives, they failed the creative process too. How much better could the work be if all the members of the team were able to work under the best conditions?
Word is, John Boyega delivers the best performance of his career in Steve McQueen’s Red, White, and Blue. As Steve told the AP:
“There’s something about [John] right now that’s vital. You want to hear that voice. It reminds me of Jack Nicholson in the ’70s where you wanted to hear that voice. There’s something dangerous and uncensored and untethered and sexy about him. That’s what you want in a leading man.”
Red, White and Blue premieres on the BBC this weekend and will be available on Prime Video next week. Unfortunately the Small Axe anthology is not yet available in Canada. I am as frustrated as you.
Yours in gossip,
PS….last day to enter our Brüush contest for a chance to win Brüush for you and two friends. Check out my Instagram post from a couple of weeks ago for details. And if you want to make sure to get one for yourself or as a gift for the holidays, the 25% discount changes to 15% on Monday. So visit Bruush.com (it’s in US currency but no import charges apply to Canada) and use promo code LaineyGossip25 to get your discount.