Black folks haven’t historically been central to the action in sci-fi outside of the late Octavia Butler’s speculative fiction, even in a galaxy far, far away. Many an online meme explores how Blacks were the first to die in action movies of the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s. In 1977, George Lucas’s never-ending Star Wars saga first launched without any immediately obvious people of color (though James Earl Jones lent Darth Vader the ultimate voice of doom). The sequel introduced Billy Dee Williams as interplanetary player Lando Calrissian, but that was it. And no Black women at all.
Enter Lupita Nyong’o. The newly minted Hollywood darling, fresh from her 12 Years a Slave Oscar win, will be joining the cast of director J. J. Abrams’s Star Wars VII (set for release December 18, 2015). Lucas’s trilogy of prequels went slightly more multicultural, with Samuel L. Jackson going Jedi as badass Mace Windu and Puerto Rican actor Jimmy Smits as Princess Leia’s adoptive dad, Bail Organa. Nyong’o joins English actor John Boyega as the (possible) Jedis of color in the next trilogy of films.
But who will Lupita play? Let the speculation begin.
—Miles Marshall Lewis