Actor John Boyega on "delivering the truth" in new film "Detroit"

Actor John Boyega on "Detroit"

The 1967 Detroit riots are a painful chapter in U.S. history.

After the police raided an unlicensed bar in a black neighborhood, racial tensions flared. Over the course of five days, 43 people were killed, more than 7,000 were arrested and hundreds of buildings were destroyed.  

The new movie "Detroit" centers on a real-life incident that took place during those riots, where police terrorized guests at the Algiers Motel, killed three black men and beat nine others.

Actor John Boyega plays a private security guard who gets caught in the middle of the conflict as he attempts to assist the police. Soon, however, the police question him as a suspect.

Boyega, known for his role as Finn in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," joined "CBS This Morning" to discuss the intense process of filming "Detroit," the responsibility of "delivering the truth," and why diversity in Hollywood needs to be happening more than just in front of the camera.

Detroit 1967: When a city went up in flames

Asked to describe the weight of taking on role like this, Boyega said, "Number one, you're going back to a very hard piece of history and you're reenacting very horrific scenes, but at the same time it's also the responsibility of delivering the truth. Specifically, the emotional truth. It's also reflected onto what's going on today. And that comes with responsibility but at the same time it's important for us to go there."

Many have pointed to the film's resonance and relevance to race relations today. 

"The truth is, is that systematic racism has been a deep part of history — not only America but globally — and it's just an insight to racial relations and tensions to people who haven't been given the best opportunity by the system," Boyega said.

Director Kathryn Bigelow has said that the filming, particularly the scenes in the hotel, took an emotional toll on the cast. Boyega portrayed real-life security guard Melvin Dismukes, whom he had a chance to meet in person.

Director Kathryn Bigelow, actor Anthony Mackie talk race relations and new film "Detroit"

"It was definitely intense. Because with any movie like this you have to keep a level of intensity to assure that there's an emotional truth to the characters that you're playing. You want to make sure that you're doing them justice as we are playing real people," Boyega said.

The British actor was the first-ever black character in the "Star Wars" franchise, and in a recent GQ article he called out other franchises for their lack of diversity.

"It's about obviously just making the imagination a bit wider when it comes behind the scenes. We need to have more people behind the scenes of diverse origins," Boyega said. "The more we have behind the scenes, the more their perspective influences the projects that they put up so hopefully things will change."

Boyega has worked with some of the world's most sought-after directors in the industry today, including J.J. Abrams for "Star Wars" and in "Detroit" with Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow.

From them, Boyega said he's learned "Craft. It's craft. The ability to harness and expose yourself in a way that just sheds a light onto a character is a strange thing. It's a weird feeling and some directors can get that out of you – some can't."

"Detroit" opens nationwide on August 4.