John Boyega may not yet be a household name, but give him a few days. The tall, amiable British actor plays Stormtrooper FN-2187 a.k.a. Finn in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” At 23, he is one of the new lead characters in the latest installment of the beloved sci-fi film series. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that his character has an epiphany early in the film, and he goes on an action-packed galactic adventure.
During a recent publicity stopover in the U.S., Boyega, who hails from London and is a professionally trained stage actor, spoke about joining the “Star Wars” phenomenon, getting to work alongside the franchise mainstay Harrison Ford and what it was like to wield a light saber for the first time.
Q: Are you ready for the fame that will come from playing a “Star Wars” character?
Boyega: I don’t know if I’m ready for this whole thing. I just know that I’m just in it, and it’s going to come out, regardless. But it should be fun.
Q: How much of your character’s back story were you told ahead of time, and how that inform what you came in with?
Boyega: I didn’t know much going in, but I do remember having the sides (script pages), which were loosely based on who Finn and Rey was. I just remember during my screen testing, I said to Daisy, “There’s no way that our stories are so simple.” And we still don’t know (where they’re heading in possible subsequent films). I’ve still got some conspiracy theories, as a fan, as to where Finn comes from. And I’m still trying to figure that out. But I like that it’s a mystery.
Q: When you found out you were going to be using what appears to be the Skywalker Legacy light saber, how did that feel as an actor?
Boyega: I was very excited to use that thing, because I think blue suits me. Also, it was amazing for me to read the whole script and to find out all the things that Finn gets to do. I also wondered if J.J. (Abrams, the director and co-writer) knew what kind of fan I was when it came to “Star Wars,” and wrote this role for me, because I get to wear a Stormtrooper’s suit and a rebel jacket. I have a blaster, I use a light saber and I hang out with frickin’ Han Solo and Chewie. It’s just fantastic.
Q: Did you have any concerns about your character getting a limb hacked off as Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker did in the first trilogy?
Boyega: I did. I did, because Adam Driver (who plays Dark Side foe Kylo Ren) has a really long reach, and that’s an issue, but I’ve done my Floyd Mayweather thing. I just bob and weave, bob and weave. (He laughs.)
Q: Were you ever starstruck when you met the original cast on the set for the first time?
Boyega: I have to say there was a moment on the Millennium Falcon, where Harrison (Ford, reprising his role as Han Solo), had a blaster and was trying to skillfully to put it in the holster. And Harrison stood there (missing the holster a few times and said,) “Dammit!” Me and Daisy were just behind the camera saying, “This is freakin’ insane! Harrison’s just freakin’ right there.” But we had to do the scene together, and not freak out. It was mesmerizing to see Harrison in this environment, in the movies that we absolutely loved. And it was good to see (him) with Chewie. We freaked out, but we didn’t show him anything. We tried to keep it professional.
Q: What were your favorite parts of the original franchise movies? And maybe how did those like moments affect your performance in the movies you’re in now?
Boyega: I had screen tested, and then I heard that I was going to be brought back one last time. And mind you, I had been auditioning for several months. I just needed inspiration. And I went on YouTube, and I saw Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill’s original audition tape. And that really inspired me to tap into the “Star Wars”-esque energy, because I think that there was something that we were trying to gauge, and that really inspired me. And I booked it.
Q: Have you read any of the fan theories online? Do you follow any of the fan conversations and, if so, what your favorite rumor is that you’ve heard?
Boyega: I remember reading the theory that Finn is Mace Windu’s (Samuel L. Jackson’s character from the second trilogy) grandson, or something like that. So later I was at a party and someone behind me just tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Yo, black Jedi.” I turned around and it was Samuel Jackson. He’s like, “You’re my son.” Yeah. I’d say that was the moment that was (mind-blowing) for me.
Q: What do you hope the greater cultural impact will be of “The Force Awakens? There was some disgruntlement expressed by some online early on about your character being black.
Boyega: I’m going to be honest. I really don’t care about the black Stormtrooper stuff. I couldn’t care less. This is a movie about human beings, about Wookies, spaceships, and TIE fighters, and it has an undertone and a message of courage, friendship and loyalty. That’s something that is ultimately important.
I watched the movie with Kathy (Kennedy, the producer) just last week, and I really relate to Rey (played by fellow unknown Daisy Ridley) more than any of the other characters. To be in a circumstance where you have to find something bigger than who you are within yourself is something that’s an inspiration to me, and I think that people will take that away. In terms of the kids, all they’re going to be concentrating on is BB-8.
Q: You reprise your role for Disney’s Infinity 3.0 video game, and you’re known to be a big fan of the series. What was it like, after shooting the film, to reprise the role for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” game, and was there any time between finishing the movie, and going back to those characters for the game?
Boyega: I’ve had to go back twice—once for Disney Infinity, and the second time for “Star Tours, the ride at Disneyland. To be a playbook character, I get to play with myself. (He laughs.) Oh, that’s disgusting. Sorry, I had to tell that joke. But it’s been amazing. It was fun. And the characters in Disney Infinity are more of the childlike versions of the characters in the movie, so that was very cool.