Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 September 2020

Jo Malone says cutting black actor John Boyega from ad was misstep

The commercial was built around the actor's life story

John Boyega in the original advert, which was built around his lived experience. YouTube / Jo Malone
John Boyega in the original advert, which was built around his lived experience. YouTube / Jo Malone

British perfume brand Jo Malone has apologised to black actor John Boyega of Star Wars fame after cutting him out of the Chinese version of a cologne commercial he helped to create.

Jo Malone London said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter that the advertisement designed for Chinese audiences was a misstep and has been removed. The recreated advertisement replaced Boyega with Chinese star Liu Haoran.

"The concept for the film was based on John’s personal experiences and should not have been replicated,” it said.

Jo Malone and its parent company, Estee Lauder, didn't respond to requests for comment on Sunday. Boyega and his representatives also couldn't be reached for comment.

The original advertisement starring Boyega was broadcast last year and was called The London Gent. It feels deeply personal to Boyega's experience and features the London-born actor walking around the district where he grew up and riding a horse in a park.

It also makes reference to his Nigerian heritage in a scene featuring West African attire.

It's not the first time Boyega has been deleted from a China-based advertisement. He played a leading role as Finn in 2015′s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but he and other non-white characters were removed or diminished from a Chinese poster for the movie.

Boyega has spoken out about Hollywood racism, recently telling GQ that black characters had been “pushed to the side” in Disney’s Star Wars franchise.

The actor was also very outspoken on social media after George Floyd was killed in the US, and was seen protesting in London. He gave an impassioned speech on a megaphone during one protest that went viral. During the speech, as tears streamed down his face, he said: "Look, I don't know if I'm going to have a career after this, but [...] that."

When he got backlash from some fans for his words he replied that anyone who didn't like his opinion could stop following him. "You lot can’t rattle me. I’m not the guy to be rattled. I wasn’t raised by no weak people.”

With additional reporting by AP

Updated: September 14, 2020 11:28 AM

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