ONE to watch

John Boyega, 25, has a deep voice, an infectious laugh and is a captivating mix of boyish charm with a resolute toughness. These traits don't stray far from the roles he takes on as an actor
2018-12-03
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Boyega grew up on an estate in Peckham, a modest neighbourhood of South London with his parents and two older sisters. His parents are Nigerian immigrants - his father is a Pentecostal minister and his mother was a carer. “My dad is the man I want to be. He’s the living example of who I’d like to embody. He is a very good, genuine man.” During school, Boyega struggled with the work and found it difficult to keep up with others. “I was in the bottom set for everything. I was a bit of a nuisance in class.” He would be thinking of films he had seen or dreaming of films he could be in – such as Star Wars”. He persevered through this and was determined to prove that he could learn, go to university and now, he is passionate about education. He often wonders why the fundamentals lessons aren’t taught in school, “Is the system currently catered to the variety of brains we have? Hell, no. Teach us about tax, teach us about credit, teach us about opening a business, teach us about housing. A lot of people will lose out on opportunities because they don’t know.”

After starring in Attack the Block at college and then gaining a place at Greenwich University to do film studies, Boyega decided to drop out and take on acting full time. Soon after in 2012, he met JJ Abrams in Los Angeles, while working on the pilot for Spike Lee. The Star Wars director had seen Boyega in Attack the Block and told him he loved it and promised to get him a part “in something”. “Thanks, mate, and sure,” he thought sceptically, thinking it was all talk. But then to his awe, in 2014, after a seven-month audition process, Boyega was offered the part of Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens - a role which has given Star Wars a new energy and sense of fun. Last year he appeared in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and he is signed up for the next instalment. It will be the first film without the heroic trio that have dominated the series – Princess Leia, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.

Handsome and self-assured, Boyega bears a resemblance to a younger Denzel Washington and exhibits the same antic humour as Kevin Hart. His mix of onscreen talent and offscreen ambition has drawn admiration from notable actors of the industry – including Harrison Ford who has described Boyega as being “bold, confident and complicated, with intelligent ideas”. John Boyega is at the forefront of what he describes as a “movement” of young British actors and we know that he will find more challenging and epically intense roles to play in the future. We’re looking forward to seeing what he has up his sleeves for us!

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