In an interview with Variety on Wednesday, the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker actor, 27, was asked about balancing positive fan interactions online with hate-filled internet trolls, a dilemma that Tran, 30, solved by deleting her social media accounts in the wake of racist, derogatory messages.
“Being in this position, you just understand the masses, how the masses think, you know,” Boyega said in the interview. “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 continued, “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. So it’s kind of like [shrugs], it is what it is.”
On Thursday, Boyega cleared up his comments with a statement on Twitter, writing that he was not directly calling Tran weak when he was speaking about social media critics in his Variety interview.
“In no way was I referring to Kelly when I made my comments although the interviewer mentioned her given the topic. I was really speaking from my own perspective throughout this franchise,” he wrote. “Sometimes I’ve felt strong and sometimes I’ve felt weak.”
“Badly worded though. I apologize,” Boyega concluded.
In no way was I referring to Kelly when I made my comments although the interviewer mentioned her given the topic. 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.— John Boyega (@JohnBoyega) December 12, 2019
In an additional tweet, Boyega wrote, “My comments on Kelly specifically and online harassment remains the same via a tweet I put out a few years ago.”
Tran deleted her Instagram account due to the online harassment she faced when she was cast in 2017’s The Last Jedi, becoming the first Asian American actress to land a major role in the sci-fi franchise. But not all fans were welcoming to the new character of resistance fighter Rose Tico.
“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them. Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of color already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories,” she wrote in the piece.
Earlier this week, Tran reflected on the difficult time in her career while promoting the upcoming Star Wars film, in which she reprises her role.
“For me, it’s not something that I use to define my identity by,” she said while appearing on Yahoo’s Build Series Monday. “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.’”
Tran continued on to say she had to take the time to ensure her mental health was intact amid the onslaught of online criticism — something that Tran admitted she didn’t understand was important until finding herself in the social media situation.
“Reminding yourself that you are not alone and it is okay. These are the biggest things,” Tran said. “Anytime you are sort of confronted with a situation that increases your fear and your anxiety if you allow that voice to be silent and if you allow yourself to sort of isolate yourself, I think it gets worse.”
She added, “So the best thing for me was just being honest and talking about it.”
In June 2018, Boyega showed solidarity for Tran on Twitter shortly after she exited social media, condemning those who directly attacked the actress.
“If you don’t like Star Wars or the characters understand that there are decision makers and harassing the actors/ actresses will do nothing,” he wrote at the time. “You’re not entitled to politeness when your approach is rude. Even if you paid for a ticket!”