Peckham born actor John Boyega was thrust into the mainstream realm after landing a life-changing role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Even though this was a breakthrough role for Boyega, he was very much a fully realised and established actor beforehand and now has his own production company with UpperRoom Productions. Having recently signed a deal with global streaming platform Netflix in producing shows centred around Western and Eastern Africa, he is not showing any sign of slowing down and continues to be in the spotlight.
In the recent cultural and social climate Boyega has not only proven to be an incredibly inspirational figure but an activist in fighting for the voices of black lives and evoking emotion away from the film-set. A heart-wrenching speech circulated the internet after the murder of George Floyd, in which Boyega was seen at the Hyde Park protest tearfully addressing the crowd in a fury of passion and vulnerability, ‘I need you to understand how painful this shit is, to be reminded that your race means nothing’. The message at the centre of the speech is extremely moving and resonates with every single one of us as the prejudice against ethnic minorities is still very much systematically build into society. In a recent interview with Jimi Famurewa, Boyega confessed it was his first protest and the message of ‘we’ve had enough’ and the frustration of not being heard was something he desperately needed to voice and wanted to connect to the wider social realm. The speech, which was completely improvised and unplanned, saw waves of support flood in from fellow protestors as the crowd carried its route through the central city.
Before Boyega became a household name his craft was mostly centred in British productions, his first major role being in 2011 Sci-Fi comedy Attack The Block in which Boyega played Moses. The film follows a teen gang in South London as they protect and defend their neighbourhood from extraterrestrials. Being a debut film for director Joe Cornish, it was super successful and was nominated for multiple awards including a BAFTA. Another stand-out role of Boyega’s is the adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, which is undoubtedly a cultural turning point in Nigerian literature and film. Starring alongside Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Boyega’s portrayal of Ugwu a young man of natural brilliance, takes a dark turn at the shocking and immoral events his character takes part in. His performances are astonishingly raw and are nothing short of extraordinary. I’m sure his Star Wars character Finn, storm trooper renegade, would’ve been just as interesting and profound had Disney given him the character development he deserved rather than screaming ‘Nooooo’ and “REEEEEEY’ constantly. Personally, Finn should’ve been the main character and I shall always stand by this.
Recently wrapping up filming on the impending Steve McQueen film Red, White and Blue, we’ll soon see Boyega back acting, and this time it’ll be in the role of Leroy Logan. A film inspired by the true events of the 1980s dramaturges, Leroy Logan abandoned a successful and prosperous career in scientific research to become a police officer, despite, or perhaps in a redemptive sense, because of, his father being beaten up by racists in uniform.
John Boyega is much more than an actor and producer. He is one of the fundamental people in Hollywood that uses their platform in the most beneficial and humane ways possible. His public advocation for social change and the interaction he has with contemporary society and culture shows marks him as an aspirational figure for multiple generations and that we are, as people, lucky to have an individual like him in the public eye.
Red, White and Blue is part of the Small Axe anthology series, and premieres on BBC One on 29th November