In Star Wars: The Force Awakens (out tomorrow, December 18) John Boyega plays Finn, a young and charismatic stormtrooper conflicted about his position who doesn’t want to be under The First Order’s reign anymore.
British-Nigerian actor Boyega landed the role after seven months of auditioning. He previously appeared in Attack The Block, Half Of A Yellow Sun co-starring Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor and TV series 24: Live Another Day. Star Wars is Boyega’s biggest role to date and is a game changer for the 23 year old. Boyega is magnetic on screen, holding his own in scenes with legends Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher (Harrison has shared how impressed he is by John, who’s carrying on the legacy of Star Wars and introducing this magical world to a whole new generation).
The film begins when Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is sent to planet Jakku to obtain a map believed to have Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) location. Luke is the last living Jedi who has been missing for years.
The evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) captures Dameron and orders the entire village where he’s found to be destroyed. Finn is so disgusted by Ren’s brutality, he decides to switch sides and help Dameron escape. A thrilling scene in the film is when Finn duels Kylo Ren with Luke Skywalker’s old lightsaber. We had the opportunity to exclusively interview John about the scene and more.
What was it like wielding the lightsaber of Luke Skywalker?
“It’s very heavy and it feels quite epic when you swing it. It requires nerd moments of making the sound effects yourself. But at the same time, it’s quite brutal. And the choreography was really fun to learn and it brought out skills I didn’t know I had.”
Talk more about the scene we saw from the trailer where you’re wielding the lightsaber.
“Finn and Kylo Ren are about to have a little meet and greet. That’s about it.”
How was it working with members of the original cast like Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher?
“It was fun working with the original cast. They’re very genuine and natural and there’s a good, organic relationship between the new generation and the old generation, so we have the best of both worlds. As actors and co-stars, they were definitely easy to work with.”
Did Mark give you any tips about wielding the lightsaber?
“He actually didn’t, which is surprising.”
Growing up you were a major Star Wars fan. What was your favorite film of the series?
“Empire Strikes Back was my favorite movie from the series for sure because I just love that it embodied the ultimate fight between good and evil. The energy and the feel of comedy was just so real to me. I love comedy when it’s balanced with a good space story.”
What’s your favorite Star Wars moment of all time?
“To be honest, I don’t have a favorite Star Wars moment of all time. But, one of my favorite moments is when Luke and Han go undercover, and they’re at the base and then he reveals he isn’t a Stormtrooper.”
During the film you first appear as a Stormtrooper before dropping down in Jakku. Did you ever think you would be fighting for the Dark Side?
“Not in my normal life, I definitely didn’t. I thought I was more of a Light Side guy. But this is what’s so fun about the new Star Wars movie, it’s interesting and we’re able to explore characters in a unique way and it pushes the story forward in a way that’s engaging and that satisfies the audience, I think.”
As a fan, was there anything you were excited to see on set?
“I just wanted to see Harrison and Chewie together. That image in itself is something I wanted to see. And seeing it live was the best ticket around.”
Did your work in Attack the Block help you prepare for Star Wars?
“Not at all. I wish! I wouldn’t have had to audition for seven months!”
How did you prepare for playing Finn?
“Through collaborating with J.J. Abrams, natural talent, and doing the work, really.”
Who’s your favorite Star Wars original character and why?
“Han Solo is my favorite of all time. Because he just represented me and the audience in the film. If I was in the Star Wars universe, I wouldn’t be like Luke, I can admit I wouldn’t be that brave going up against the Sith. I would just be in it like Han trying to survive, but at the same time bravery in moderation. Run when you need to run, so I can relate to that.”
I’m from The Source Magazine, the Bible of Hip-Hop culture. Are you a Hip-Hop fan? Who are some of your favorites to listen to?
“Yes I am. I’m going to shout out Drake. I’m Drake-ing. I’m consistently listening to Drake for the past two months and it’s not going to stop.”
Anyone else you would like to shout out?
“No, no one else. Just Drake. I’m just kidding. I like Meek Mill, Rick Ross, Tupac and a few others.”
What does it mean to you to be a part of this legendary franchise?
“It means so much. It’s a really great opportunity and stepping stone into a larger world. That’s an Obi Wan Kenobi quote. And it feels good to be a part of something—that although it’s so big, it didn’t really feel like there was a large amount of pressure on set because of the shared responsibility and also because it feels like you’re making a short film with your friends with a crazy budget.”
What was your favorite part about filming?
“I just liked being able to have fun within a scene. Especially with Harrison, it was really fun to add improv to the dialogue and to just be free. A really good day was when we were having fun and doing scenes in different ways.”
What most surprised you about working on the film?
“Perhaps not a surprise, but something fun to discover is just the whole process. It’s one thing knowing the process and then being involved in it. I knew about the process before based on research and training, but actually doing it is always a differing experience. That was very interesting.”
What are you excited for fans to experience from the film?
“I’m excited for the shocking moment that they are going to really, really like just in terms of the fights and the story and the X-Wings and the explosions. They’re going to have a good time and I can’t wait to see it with a live audience.”
Star Wars is known for its universal messages. Can you speak about the themes that you love and relate to in this movie?
“The Force is a theme in itself. The decision between making a good choice and a bad choice and how that affects your life and who you are is something I’ve always related to and I think that’s the big message in Star Wars and that’s what makes it so unique.”
Can you speak about collaborating with J.J. Abrams and what you admire about him as a filmmaker?
“I admire how much he can eat in about three hours and he’s very lean (laughs). He’s a really good director. He knows how to direct a scene and he has a certain ease to him. He’s laid back and his notes are very accurate. So if you ever find yourself as an actor not able to nail a scene, he will give you clarity and help your performance.”
Can you speak about working with Daisy Ridley?
“Daisy is fun. This is Daisy’s first time working especially in this capacity and I’m able to experience the freshness of the experience from her eyes. I’m experiencing it through her basically and it’s so fun doing that.”
And what about working with villain Adam Driver?
“Adam’s hilarious. He’s so funny. He’s so stern and stoic on set but he’s really a dork. He’s really great to work with and we had a lot of fun fighting each other in the snowy forest.”
The production value and the set and the costumes is incredible, can you speak about diving into that world?
“It was fantastic and it’s something I find quite profound as to how much the practical effects have played a big part and how the CGI is more of an enhancement and not in the actual forefront of everything and so it worked out well.”
In closing, what is your final message to fans?
“Final message to fans is that Star Wars is back and it’s going to be an amazing journey. Keep open minds, take risks, and have fun.”
You can next see John in James Ponsoldt’s The Circle, co-starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson.