Like his co-star Daisy Ridley (our interview with her here), British actor John Boyega has been largely unknown to the public before winning the role of Finn, a Stormtrooper who defects from the First Order to the Resistance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Genre fans saw Boyega make a stunning, award-winning screen debut in 2011’s Attack the Block where he helped defend an apartment building against an alien invasion, but even though he’s done a handful of films since, Star Wars is game-changing moment of his career.
We don’t know a lot about Finn (even his last name has been kept from us) and neither does Boyega, incidentally, but we do know that he leaves the First Order, wields the lightsaber once owned by Luke and Anakin Skywalker, uses it in battle against Kylo Ren and ends up on the Millennium Falcon alongside Han Solo and Chewbacca. Boyega himself was a massive Star Wars fan growing up, and is happy to say that “Star Wars is going to be with me for the rest of my life.”
What was your relationship with Star Wars growing up? Which was the first movie you saw, how often did you see them and how important were they to you?
John Boyega: Well, Phantom Menace was the first movie I saw, and then a few years later I then saw the originals. But during that time I was just into the merchandise, the games, the comic books, and the Star Wars fandom has been with me ever since. And then I got cast! They cast a Star Wars fan in a Star Wars movie and now it’s over. It’s guaranteed. Star Wars is going to be with me for the rest of my life.
Not necessarily a bad thing.
Not a bad thing at all.
Have you and Daisy, being the least known cast members until now, spoken about how your lives are going to change?
A few comments here and there about our experiences and how shocking it is to see the fans, like when we go to conventions and Celebration. But we’re definitely just bracing ourselves for the life adjustment.
What grabbed you about Finn? What appealed to you about this character?
Oh, I think he has just the most interesting story, for me, you know, reading the script. To go into the mind and the perspective of a stormtrooper, who’s nothing more than a stormtrooper, is just very intelligent and it’s an interesting way to kick off the new generation of these Star Wars movies.
From what we’ve seen, his journey seems to be from the dark side to the light side. Is that how you would describe what he goes through?
Yeah, definitely. But it’s an ongoing conflict; it’s not that simple, and that’s one thing I love. Not only is the character in over his head and someone who is just dropped into an extraordinary circumstance, the scenes and the script prove that and it’s not a problem that can just be erased.
You share a lot of screen time with Harrison Ford in the movie. What was it like doing scenes with him?
Oh, it was fantastic. Harrison’s obviously very talented and he’s done this for years, but it was good to have a natural chemistry with him during the scenes, and that’s something that influenced the script, so it’s been very, very fun.
Did he take almost a mentor position with the younger members of the cast?
No, it’s work, you know. You come to set, he’s your co-star, you get to work and collaborate on scenes and that’s pretty much it.
I think we’ve seen a shot of you sitting in the Millennium Falcon…
You’re obviously on a set, there’s cameras and crew around, but do you still feel this history as you sit there and stare through that window?
Yeah. My imagination drives the attention of the character I’m playing in the scene, so when the cameras are rolling, it’s great to feel like all of this is real. And it’s great to be acting like it’s real and for everybody on set to take it seriously, like, ‘OK, good job playing. Good job being a kid again.’ And I loved that.
Have they given you any indication of what they have in store for Finn as the saga goes on?
Who knows? Don’t know.
The film is directed by J.J. Abrams and stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Max Von Sydow. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk are producing with Tommy Harper and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers. The screenplay is by Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens releases in theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.