John Boyega. Now there’s a name you probably haven’t heard of until now, but it’s one you will not soon forget. When the awards for best sense of humor and contagious smile are handed out, we have our winner. Cast in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Finn, John Boyega, like his other unknown co-stars Daisy Ridley, he has now become someone Star Wars fans will know forever. He, also like his co-star, was born in 1992 in London, and just started acting a few years ago.
How did J.J. Abrams get so lucky to land 2 great “kids” to play such iconic roles? Or is it the other way around? For some reason, I think it works both ways. When you think of what Harrison Ford shared in his interview, if it weren’t for Star Wars, he wouldn’t have the career he’s had all of these years.
Who is John Boyega?
As John walks into the room he smiles this incredible smile and then asks how we are doing. Then, as you can see in the photo, he’s wearing a backpack and feels compelled I guess to address it.
Yeah, nice to see you. I’m wearing this backpack for no reason, by the way.
We all crack up.
Yeah, yeah, I just felt like it, you know? And there’s nothing significant in it. So, yeah.
We knew this interview would be fun, he’s got us laughing from the start!
When you first put on the Storm Trooper outfit and saw yourself in the mirror, what was your reaction?
I did like the way my gluts looked.
See! He’s got jokes!
All right, it was a good, it was a good experience, I mean, because something like that kind of makes it so real that you’re involved in this universe. I mean, when you put on the costume, it’s the final kind of, step of becoming a character. You put on the costume, and you see yourself as a character that isn’t you, and so that is something that was quite profound.
What was your first impression when you raised your lightsaber?
Oh, that was a good day. It was in the trailers, anyway. (Thinking of what he’s allowed to talk about) In the ruins- in the castle, there are these kids who actually make the technology for the lightsabers; they’re quite young. And so they brought it in this black case, (I) opened the case, I picked up the lightsaber, and I was kinda like, (laughing), just for me, a lightsaber (in a high pitched voice). (We are all laughing). And you know, he was just looking at me, and you can see how, (me) holding the lightsaber, how that captures, the imagination of onlookers and, I was definitely egotistical that day.
Do you get to keep it?
No But what I am gonna do is go back and write a long list – the Storm Trooper helmet, the rebel jacket – a leather jacket and, and the saber, that’s what I’m gonna back and get.
How does it feel to be a part of a franchise that sort of stands for generations?
It feels really cool and quite weird at the time, because I remember, you don’t think about all of those specifics when you’re auditioning because it’s all about booking the part, and then also, you don’t think about that while you’re filming because it’s about the reality of the scenes. But the characters don’t know that they’re in Star Wars movie that will change people’s lives. So they’re in their reality. I remember being with my driver in the UK when we’re going to set, and he was just like, “You know what, mate? When you die, you’re not gonna be really dead because you’re gonna be everywhere anyway.” (We all laugh) And I just thought, oh yeah, that’s an interesting thought. And so it’s quite surprising to be a part of that.
What was the first thing that you did when you found out that you actually got the part?
I was in a café with J.J. and Larry Kasdan, and he told me face-to-face. I thought he was gonna tell me I didn’t get the part because J.J.’s that nice. I’d auditioned for seven months, and I feel like if he was gonna tell me it didn’t go my way, he would’ve invited me to a dinner and just go, you know what? At least you get a free meal!
But, you know, it worked out well, and I told my agent who I’ve known since I was sixteen, and then randomly told a taxi driver. I was like, you know what, I’ve just been cast in the new Star Wars, and he said, “all right, mate”.
We are all laughing as he tells the story.
So what kind of training was involved for the lightsabers?
Hand-to-hand combat so, specifically me and Adam had to do the choreograph scenes together. Finn has a lot of shooting, running, especially with me and Rey. Me and Daisy had to get our cardiovascular skills up, and that was treacherous. It was fun because now (after) filming the scenes, you realize why the training was so intense because the scenes are literally practical effects on the real locations, there’s no time to kind of slack.
So just feeding off that, like the scene when the explosion…You’re running away from that. Was that you or was that a double, or…
That was me. That was all me. It was fantastic. I mean, with explosions like that, there are health and safety regulations and all those things, but while we were on set, I didn’t think I expected them to be that big. I just remember coming and saying, okay, John, we’re gonna do this scene and just run.
He’s very animated as he shares the story and has us laughing still.
Do the dialog, uh, yeah. Have fun. Great. All right. Cameras; action. And I’m running, and I’m like, look at Daisy, and see that everyone’s backing up. J.J.’s going further and further away. They put, like, a plastic cloak over the camera; people putting goggles on and hats. I looked at Daisy like, why, how come we, and they called action, and then I realized, what? Uh, and if you watch the scene, I’m actually legit freaking out, (Hysterical!). I might not have another. I’m too young to die like this. But it was, it definitely fun filming those scenes.
So now, the very first trailer that came out was you.
I LOVE this, watch John Boyega’s reaction to the trailer.
How has your life changed since that trailer came out?
You know what? It’s so strange. This process has been so gradual like. Yesterday night, I took a Uber to movie theater to see Creed. I watched Creed; loved it; I was on the streets, shopping about with my boys on Hollywood Boulevard, and I went to a car show last night, and I went to that and no one recognized me.
That’s gonna change.
Yeah, that’s gonna change.
But, I’m enjoying it now, I realize that, you know, my life is gonna be different in terms of scheduling. I’m, I’m traveling a lot and I don’t get time to be at home as much as I want to. And, you know, I can pass through Times Square and see my beautiful face just – Can you imagine? On the, on the screen, but it’s really strange how that all works.
And I think that because I still move through public places, sometimes people recognize me, but they do this. “Naw.” (We are laughing) “All right, naw, that ain’t him. Yeah, I’d like to see him holding a lightsaber, just, all right, naw, it’s not him.” Uh, but yes, so for now, it’s gradual.
So did you play with a lightsaber when you were a kid?
I did. I did. I was more of a Han dude. I wasn’t really into Luke like that. It’s not because he wasn’t a good character. It’s just because I like the characters that represent human beings in these kind of projects, like, in sci-fi, like, you know, if any of us were in the Star Wars universe, we wouldn’t be Luke. We wouldn’t be trying to, you know, fight against- naw, hell, naw, I’m trying to live, I’m trying to be Han. I’m trying to make money; I’m trying to survive.
And the only reason why I would be brave is to save my own life, all right? (We are laughing) Yeah, I’m not trying to any of that stuff, and so those are the characters I really relate to, uh, is the Hans. I would, you know, do the whole blasted thing.
You hit Force Friday hard!
Yeah, absolutely! Let’s just say I went into the Disney store; I came out; there was nothing left.
Ha! He’s serious!
When you told your dad you got the part as Finn he knew nothing about Star Wars?
Dad had no idea what Star Wars was, but you know, I have to do my mandatory parental FaceTime every day. And he always tells me how crazy it is for him, you know to go onto the tube and just see his son. And he’s just there like, “I created him!” But for him, he’s, he’s starting to realize how big it is. I mean, he’s packing right now to get on a plane to to join me in Sol for the Asian press tour. And so, yeah, he’s very excited.
If you had a lightsaber in real life, what color would it be?
You know what? My lightsaber would be rainbow colors so they’d know I was there!
He totally means this!
I’d be like, whooo, so that everyone would know I was about to go to town, (he’s laughing!). I’d be, I’d be all over the place switching interchangeable, a little bit of flash modes, you know, and disco mode. I’m about peace; I’m not, I’m not trying to get into fights with no one. I like to stay, so I would be like, yeah, that’s all I’d do.
What was, what was the most inspiring thing about your character?
Um, I think what’s so inspiring about Finn is how complex he is. He a Storm Trooper who has never really experienced individuality, and I think we always know Storm Troopers to just be one unit, and we’ve never, ever had a Storm Trooper take off his helmet for us to see who he really is. All you’ve ever had is the lead characters in disguise and for me, I find that iconic to me as a fan, to be able to actually talk to one of those. Because I always felt sorry for those Storm Troopers, man. It’s like they send them out just to be shot and I’ve always wanted to say, man, you know what? There must be a different career for you, mate. Finn is the first Storm Trooper to actually go, you know what? I need a new job. So it’s really cool to experience a Storm Trooper in that sense.
Can you say or tell us anything about the relationship between Finn and Poe?
When Finn escapes the First Order, he crosses paths with various different characters and Poe is one of them. They definitely have a brother relationship. Finn finds a friend in Poe and Poe represents what Finn wants to be. He’s definite in his position of who he fights for; what side he’s on, and Finn is more in limbo. Finn is kinda like, okay, I don’t wanna fight with the Storm Troopers; I don’t wanna fight the resistance; I kinda wanna get away, but I have to, and Poe gives him a lot of clarity on who he is as a person.
What makes the Star Wars movies and story so timeless in your opinion?
In my opinion, I just think it’s the continuous dialog between fans. Fans have the ability to make a whole press conference on probably two minutes worth of footage, like, who shot first? That was a few seconds. There’s a whole debate about that, and that keeps fans engaged even when the movie’s aren’t there. There’s only been six films, but if you look at the fandom, it reflects as if there’s been twenty. I think it’s because there are different ways in which you can experience Star Wars. You don’t necessarily have to watch the films. You can just have the merchandise and just know it from there. So there’s several ways that you can be a Star Wars fan, and I think that’s different than any other, any other property.
Can you describe Finn in three words?
Conflicted; charismatic; I’ll do it as a joint word, temporary bravery.
You said you were a Han Solo fan, so what was it like for working with Harrison Ford?
Do you know, it’s so funny. Me and Harrison are obviously best friends. He would tell you that. We go way back. It’s ridiculous. We formed a really interesting relationship that really has influenced the Finn and the Han relationship because the first thing I said to Harrison when I met him, I walked up to him and it’s like, hey, “I’m Harrison Ford” and I was like, “you look good, man.” He was like, “well, what did you expect?”
We are all laughing!
And from then, that influenced the way in which Finn sees Han. And Han is kind of like, “dude, I’m Han Solo, like, have respect”. And there’s no respect whatsoever. But I think that Han sees a young Han in Finn, and they form this bond, and it’s, it’s gonna be so hilarious when you see their duo, and the lack of respect for each other, but the undertone love that they have, it’s pretty cool. Yeah.
But it was, it was hard to channel Finn. Like, for seven months, I was auditioning for the part, and one of the reasons why I feel it was so long is because it’s really hard to channel the character, without enough content, so we weren’t allowed a script. We couldn’t take a script home. So I’m having to work with J.J. as if we’re playing one of those mind games, and you have to guess what he’s saying. I’m like, okay, Finn is brave, and J.J.’s having to explain without giving away the whole story, so it has been a lot of me trying to find the extreme versions of myself along with obviously, a great script and making a fictional character.
See, I told you he’s fantastic! And the great news is…in just a few more days and you can see John Boyega as Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS arrives in theaters everywhere on December 18th!
*I was invited by Disney to cover the press junket for Star Wars to share my experience with my readers. All opinions are my own.