Playing the lead in a new Star Wars film is no guarantee of success (Hayden who?), but if any of the new faces in The Force Awakens have the charisma to stick around, it’s Londoner John Boyega. Born to Nigerian parents, knew he wanted to be an actor when he realized he was no good at soccer – a good thing for us as well as himself.
His debut role was in Joe Cornish’s 2011 genre mash-up Attack the Block. As villain-turned-hero Moses, Boyega thrilled us, made us laugh and proved he could kick ass even when surrounded by aliens on the offensive.
But his role as AWOL First Order stormtrooper Finn is set to catapult the 23-year-old into the stratosphere of stardom. He spoke to Paper Magazine in Los Angeles about the role and the oncoming media onslaught, but wouldn’t say what his next project is (a hint in itself?).
Are you prepared for or thinking about the dangers or the darker side of fame now you’re on the cusp of it?
Oh, the darker side I’m thinking about is Adam Driver in that suit.
I’m about the movie, I’m about the process, I’m about the people and I didn’t come into this by myself. I came into this with a fantastic team, with family, with friends, with obviously everybody at Disney, they’re doing a great job. Kathy [Kennedy, LucasFilm presidnet], she’s amazing. So I feel very supported coming into this. So just taking each day as it comes and December 18 we’ll just see exactly how this movie goes.
Any advice from the older cast members on dealing with this kind of celebrity?
I remember Harrison told me that ‘it’s just going to change your life’. I think that him not going beyond that just means that it’s an experience, it’s each to their own. So we will see what I learn and how I grow within this world of the Star Wars universe. But so far, I have to say the fans have been amazing. We were in Anaheim earlier this year at San Diego Comic Con and it’s just been brilliant to actually meet them and see how excited they are.
You’re very media friendly so you seem very prepared for the onslaught.
I like the camera. I mean I’m a 90s baby so I’ve literally grew up with the camera in my face.
Are you being recognised in the street a lot yet?
No, no, no. Not at all.
Looking forward to that or dreading it?
It’s part of what it is, isn’t it? I mean if I saw Johnny Depp walking around… actually I did see him today. So, you know, it happens.
But no, I’ve been walking around LA and nobody recognizes me at all. Back home I’m walking around like usual and then slowly I know that’s going to change with the release of the movie. I’ll just do the human thing and adapt.
We all loved your reaction to the race comments on Instagram. Has that ever been an issue in your career and was it a bit shocking?
It’s never been an issue, no. It’s never come up. But this is the thing about Star Wars. Star Wars reaches out to many people, with both positive responses and negative responses. What I am fixated about is that we’ve come to a point where everybody is absolutely excited about the movie, most of the fans are positive and are expecting the movie to be good and they’re in full support so that’s what I’m most excited about.
Especially when you see 8,000 people just absolutely screaming [at LA’s D23 event]. Negative is non-existent. This is Star Wars, this is a positive thing. It’s great to just fixate on what is happening and this is a great thing.
Any hobbies outside the craziness to keep you sane?
This is not craziness. This is me doing my art, I’m acting. I’m not a rock star or anything. I’m acting. I’m going to places where I get to meet genuine fans of these franchises. I still do the normal stuff that every guy does, you just end up going to a panel and obviously there are a lot of fans and watching a movie where you just happen to be the lead. So it’s not crazy, it doesn’t feel crazy to me.
You don’t get in a zone where you’ve just got to get out of the whole acting and Star Wars headspace for a minute?
It’s always been a part of my life. I watch B rolls, I’m into the behind the scenes, I’m into comic books. All those things have always been a part of my life. Obviously, this being an extreme extension where I get to express myself but I still go back to just being a normal guy. There’s a good balance for me.
They don’t collide with each other. There’s a perfect balance to the force.
Any talk about whether Finn’s going to appear in the next episodes?
Kathy [Kennedy, LucasFilm president] said at the Anaheim convention that the Star Wars universe is always expanding. So I think let’s get through 7, let’s see what happens and then we’ll continue from there and in between we’ve got Rogue 1 for you guys. We’ve got the other spin off movies, the Han Solo origin story, then we’ll see what happens with the main franchise.
Would you do other Star Wars films if they approached you?
Of course I would. Why not, why not?
What have you got coming up next after Star Wars?
[To the publicist hovering nearby] Am I allowed to mention my next projects?… No.