In a galaxy far, far away the “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” press tour is going well.
But here on Earth, the cast and crew have experienced a few hiccups while ushering the final film of the Skywalker saga into theaters later this month ― be it director J.J. Abrams’ perceived slight at the previous film “Last Jedi” or Daisy Ridley appearing to deny her own white privilege.
Now actor John Boyega is apologizing for “badly worded” comments he made seemingly in reference to the social media abuse that drove his co-star Kelly Marie Tran, the first lead female character of color in the film franchise, off Twitter.
Speaking to Variety earlier this week, the actor appeared to characterize those impacted by online vitriol as “not mentally strong” in response to a question about Tran’s negative experience with racist and misogynist fans.
“Through social media, we get to engage, we get to have fun. But at the same time, for those who are not mentally strong, you are weak to believe in every single thing that you read,” he told the outlet. “That’s, you know, it is what it is. I don’t know, for me anyway, when I see that [backlash], I’m like, well, that’s actually not true. But no, it is actually not true.”
His comments sparked a swift response from fans, who believed he was minimizing Tran’s experience after she was essentially driven off social media after months of harassment. In August 2018, she published an op-ed in The New York Times detailing how the trolls retriggered a “spiral of self-hate” after months of silence.
Boyega clarified his comments on Wednesday and issued an apology to his co-star.
“In no way was I referring to Kelly when I made my comments although the interviewer mentioned her given the topic,” he wrote on Twitter. “I was really speaking from my own perspective throughout this franchise. Sometimes I’ve felt strong and sometimes I’ve felt weak. Badly worded though. I apologize.”
He went onto point a finger at fans who are “not entitled to politeness when your approach is rude.”
Tran, who has yet to rejoin social media, hasn’t addressed the controversy herself, but reflected on the online harassment she faced in a separate interview this week.
“It’s funny, because I realize that it was a big moment in culture,” Tran said of her casting in a Build Series interview.
“But for me, it’s not something that I use to define my identity by,” she continued. “I think there’s a tendency for, when someone experiences something like that, to feel like they’re defined by that, but I think I realized through that whole experience, I’m like, ‘Oh, no, I get to decide which narrative I’m playing in my mind. I get to decide who I am.’”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” arrives in theaters Dec. 20.