Drew Turney meets John Boyega, the Londoner whose role in the most recent Stars Wars film skyrocketed his profile.
Born in South London to parents originally from Nigeria, Boyega first came to notice playing Moses in 2011 feature film Attack The Block. He later appeared as Donnie in HBO movie Da Brick, loosely based on the life of Mike Tyson, both of which brought him to the attention of JJ Abrams, then looking for new talent to cast in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Boyega received the biggest break of his career when cast as Finn – an ‘AWOL stormtrooper Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
Are you still a Londoner or an LA guy now?
No. no, no no, no I’m a Londoner for life.
No matter what opportunities come up?
No matter where I am in the world, I’ll always be a Londoner. I’m also a Nigerian.
If there was enough of an Incentive to move to America, would you consider it?
I booked one of the biggest franchises in the world from home and that means, lot to me. London is at the point where the biggest franchises are filming there, so we don’t have to travel to LA and settle. I’m where the Big Ben’s at.
All we know about your character, Finn, is that he’s an AWOL stormtrooper. What else can you say about him?
Fear plays a major part in the beginning of his origin story. He’s going to be pushed into a world – all the characters. Rey [Daisy Ridley] and Poe Dameron [Oscar Isaac] – are going to be pushed into a world they don’t exactly understand at the beginning. So as a new generation, it’s going to be at education for us.
What was it like getting the call that they want you for a Star Wars movie?
It wasn’t a call – it was face to fare, which I really loved. JJ [Abrams, director] told me to come down to Mayfair and speak to him in a restaurant. We spoke about the whole audition process and what he sees in me and then he broke it to me that I was going to be the new star in Star Wars. At that moment everything just froze. The world was just perfect for that split second. I got to share the news with family, friends, agents, managers, all that kind of stuff. It was great.
He told you the part was yours then and there?
No, he was telling me he was interested. Once approved – after the seven months [of auditions] where I was like “Guys, I can be a part of your $4 billion dollar franchise” – they offered me the part, which was fantastic.
How confident were you up until then that you had It In the bag?
You’ve always got to be. I’m not going in there doubting myself, I may as well not go. So I was definitely confident about doing the best I can.
You were born 25 years after the original movie – what’s your own relationship to Star Wars?
The Phantom Menace came out in 1999 and I got a figurine, the Darth Maul one, I went back and watched the movies and realised that this figure came from an actual world. Little did I know he didn’t have the biggest part in it but he exposed me to all these other characters like Obi-Wan, Anakin… all those guys. Off that I went to watch the originals in the technical [right] order and I was sold.
When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
When I wasn’t good at football. I drew attention from people in school when I tried acting out. As a child the only thing I could understand about positive feedback was laughter, so if I could make people relaxed enough to laugh I knew I had something. I’d talk about certain family members and do re-enactments of things they used to do. I thought, “You know what, I quite like this feeling.” That’s what it was for a long time until I heard people actually get paid for it.
The “force’ was strong?
There was something there that just chose to be the talent I wanted to explore, and I’ve explored it to the point that I’m in a Star Wars movie. That’s not a bad run at all.