From the Shadows to the Spotlight: Moving Marginalized Characters into Focus 

A few weeks ago, John Boyega made known his displeasure at being marginalized in the most recent Star Wars trilogy. Boyega’s Finn had a prominent role in The Force Awakens but his prominence was diminished in The Last Jedi and even more so in the final installment of the trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker 

In an interview with GQ, Boyega asserted that it was not just his character that was marginalized. In fact, the actor claims that actors of color were “pushed to the side” by Disney. In the article Boyega also referred to Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron and Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose as characters that more or less suffered the same cinematic fate as his own.  

While the latest Star Wars trilogy did focus on Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, it is common in Hollywood for characters to be pulled out of the spotlight and replaced in favour of others who were initially not considered to be the property’s focus. The Big Bang Theory is one example where this occurred. The series was initially supposed to focus on Johnny Gileki’s Leonard but soon became a vehicle for Jim Parson’s Sheldon. The same is true of iconic characters such as the Fonz from Happy Days and Family Matters’ Steve Urkel.   

The instances cited are of secondary characters ascending to lead status, but they are all examples of Hollywood looking at the bottom line over what works creatively. Although it may run counter to what fans and moviegoers desire, Hollywood is a business and sometimes the ledger sheet trumps the creative process. Boyega’s concerns are not without merit and particularly in the climate we are currently in, diminishing the roles of characters of colour is a leap in the wrong direction. 

Taking Boyega’s comments into consideration here are a few characters played by people of color in films that could be elevated in the next installments of their respective franchises.  

Lashana Lynch 

Lynch played Maria Rambeau, Captain Marvel’s bestie in the 2017 film and is set to appear opposite Daniel Craig as the new 007 in the upcoming James Bond flick, No Time to Die. While Rambeau is the mother of Monica Rambeau, played by Akira Akbar, and never becomes a superhero in Marvel’s comic book continuity, there is no reason she cannot have a significant role in the next Captain Marvel movie or one centering on her daughter. Also, with Marvel toying with the multiverse in the upcoming Dr. Strange movie there is a chance that Maria Rambeau can assume the mantle of Photon at some point in the MCU.   

Ludi Lin 

Lin played Captain Murk in 2018’s Aquaman and his role could be expanded in the planned sequel. In the comics Murk is a Commander in the Kingsguard and an Atlantean Council Minister. Aquaman and Murk have an interesting history with their relationship shifting from one of conflict to currently being alliesLin was the Black Ranger in 2017’s Power Rangers and is set to appear in the new Mortal Kombat movie as Liu Kang.  

Awkwafina 

Fresh off her head turning performance in Crazy Rich Asians,  Awkwafina appeared in the latest entry in the Jumanji franchise, Jumanji: The Next Level. When she finally appeared onscreen as Ming Fleetfoot and Danny Devito’s Eddie, her undeniable charisma and comedic talents gave the latter half of the film’s running time an undeniable boostIt would be an error in judgement if she is not a part of the inevitable sequel and given more screen time.