The Force Behind John Boyega

The Force Behind John Boyega
Star Wars actor John Boyega’s rise to fame has been meteoric. But how did he get to where he is today? Taku Mukiwa grabs his lightsaber, summons up The Force and finds out.

Who is John Boyega?

Born in London to Nigerian parents, Samson and Abigail Boyega, he is only 23 and grew up in Peckham. His father is a church minister and his mother worked with disabled children. He has two sisters.

Many people didn’t know who John Boyega was until his name was catapulted into the spotlight following much mumbling and whining due to the release of the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The trailer revealed his role as a stormtrooper, an iconic soldier in the award-winning film franchise.

‘I’m grounded in who I am and I am a confident black man. A confident, Nigerian, black, chocolate man. I’m proud of my heritage and no man can take that away from me.’

However, people questioned why John Boyega was cast in the role as they thought, wrongly, that as stormtroopers are an army made up of white clones, it would therefore be impossible to have a black stormtrooper. Some people went so far as to post vile racist online attacks on Boyega. However, the noise about this in the press and on social media really got his name out there to people who might not have heard of him before.

We have since been graced by John Boyega’s many hilarious TV interviews and he has truly established himself as a loveable star with a bright future. Even the great actor Harrison Ford recently described him as a ‘bright young man’.

Path to stardom

Often, when new stars ‘emerge’ you could be forgiven for thinking they have no history whatsoever. For example, with Boyega, we could all get obsessed by the fact that he appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but it wasn’t the first thing that he ever did.

His path to stardom started taking shape when, at nine years old, he was spotted by the artistic director of Theatre Peckham, Teresa Early, appearing in a school play. She was quoted as saying that she spotted great potential in him and invited him to attend drama classes that were being run for nine to 14-year-old kids. He managed to attend the classes after securing financial help through a hardship fund.

John Boyega acted in many productions at Theatre Peckham, as well as at school, before training further at the Identity School of Acting in east London. In a nutshell, John has been acting for a long time and Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a huge achievement following years of hard work.

Despite his early start, Boyega says that at no point did he ever imagine starring in one of the biggest movie franchises in history.

Getting the big break

Boyega’s appearance in the 2011 film Attack the Block helped to get him his big break. The science fiction comedy-horror film – whose plot centres on a gang of teenagers who defend themselves from alien invaders – gave Boyega his first major movie role. This brought him to the attention of Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams. Apparently Abrams loved Boyega’s performance so much that he told him: ‘We’re going to get you in something.’ Who would have thought it would end up being Star Wars?

It seems The Force is indeed behind John Boyega as his flag seems to be flying higher and higher and we look forward to seeing him progress even further in the years to come.

Why do people love John Boyega?

1. His response to racists  

In an interview in the New York Times when talking about racist Star Wars fans he said: ‘I’m grounded in who I am and I am a confident black man. A confident, Nigerian, black, chocolate man. I’m proud of my heritage and no man can take that away from me. I wasn’t raised to fear people with a difference of opinion.’

2. His ‘best friend’ Harrison Ford 

He got cast in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, met Harrison Ford and they became ‘best friends’. In several interviews he has said: ‘Me and Harrison are best friends!’ Adorable. It will always be remembered that to celebrate being cast he took Harrison Ford to a Nigerian restaurant on the Old Kent Road in London.

3. London champion

If ever you are searching for a strong champion for London then maybe you ought to find John as he always celebrates London whenever he can.

4. Oluwalogan the cat

Boyega doesn’t take himself too seriously and this can be seen in the videos he’s posted on social media about his relationship with his cat, Oluwalogan. As you would expect, the cat doesn’t say anything – Boyega has managed to portray their relationship in rather an amusing way and the choice of his feline friend’s name also seems to have won him many hearts.

Follow Mr Boyega on social media

Twitter: @JohnBoyega
Instagram: @jboyega_

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Taku works at Terrence Higgins Trust as a Health Improvement Specialist. Originally from Zimbabwe, he has a keen interest in African affairs.

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