In a matter of 24 hours, John Boyega went from being an unknown actor to a household name, once the first teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was dropped in November 2014. However, the actor was already somewhat prepared for the fame and notoriety that would be set on his shoulders. Boyega auditioned for the role of Finn, a stormtrooper, and for six months lived in extreme secrecy before the world saw that first trailer. It’s clear that the actor knew the enormity of the world he was slowly entering.
Although no one can adequately prepare for fame, it’s not every day an actor gets the chance to be a part of such a monumental franchise that has a legacy like Star Wars. To put it in perspective, by the time Disney and Lucasfilm is done with telling the full scope of Star Wars, the people who remember waiting on line for a ticket to see Star Wars in 1977 probably won’t be around to see the conclusion. Boyega is the continuation of that legacy, and upon meeting the actor, it’s clear to see that he has enough energy to carry that torch.
John Boyega sat down in the AOL studio for a chat about becoming Finn and joining a huge franchise.
On living in secrecy:
I’m done keeping secrets. It’s been two years of secrets. My friends back home in London are all cool with it. My friends in the states are like, “Yo, are you a Jedi or not, son?” It feels good keeping the secrets and allowing the fans to experience it as if it was 1977.
On being a part of such a huge American myth:
I auditioned for this role for six months. My second to last audition was a screen test in costume and for some reason on the sides, I was talking to this guy called “furry dude” and they were trying to keep him a secret. JJ [Abrams] then said, “We’ve got a special guest for you to read off on your test.” And it was Chewbacca! It was such a great experience to read with a fully talking Chewy! I geeked out hard.
I read eight or nine times, and it consisted of meeting and training at the same time. I was working as well. I would go into shoot a TV show and then at night I’d go into audition. I literally felt like I was Batman. I didn’t tell my parents anything, so they would say, “This guy is getting picked up in black town cars and going to a location.” It was a shock but it was worth it. I booked it!
On dealing with fame:
Anything can happen. A human being has the potential to be egotistical, but so far I’ve had peace in that, I’m not a child. I’m not being released into a world and it feels different. I’m not wide eyed. I’m not one of the Harry Potter kids. I’ve had a life, friends, family who continue to support me, and that’s something that definitely makes this ride easy. I’m genuinely happy right now, and that’s something of benefit. The recognition right now is great, but if you’re genuinely happy during this process, it feels like zen.
It’s a combination of things but the most precious thing for me is family. I’m a big family and friends dude. To know you have family and friends around it just makes you all the more happier.
On how it was to hold a lightsaber:
They’re definitely enhanced but it’s as close as you’re ever going to get. You do have the blade of light that ignites with the colors. When they clash with each other they do spark and light up. J.J. wasn’t playing when he said we’ll have physical effects, practical effects — it’s no joke. There’s no green screen stuff going on. It was, you have the saber in your hand, pause, and now the saber is on. It’s the old school kind of filmmaking. It felt so good. They brought the saber to me in a black case. Have you ever felt glory? You feel like Russell Crowe in Gladiator. It’s a glorious feeling to have that in your hand, and I didn’t let anyone touch it.
On his life changing with Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
A lot of my fear existed within the auditions. Auditioning for a Star Wars movie isn’t easy. There’s a possibility that your life can be changed, is dangled in your face, but it’s not yours yet, so that feels awkward. You can’t think about your life changing, you can’t think about any of that. You have to think about the scenes. Because it was a long time auditioning, I felt more than ready. I burn and bleed Finn. I love him so much and it’s a character and a part of myself that I enjoyed playing with every day.
On Working With Harrison Ford on Star Wars:
Harrison’s my best friend. He wouldn’t say it, but that’s what he means. We have a very cool relationship. One of the relationships that I’m really excited to see is the relationship between Finn and Han Solo. They’re a dynamic duo that’s quite funny. Finn has no respect for what he’s done in the past, and Han is just Han. He’s rude, he’s straight to the point and it allows for choppy dialogue. It’s kind of how me and Harrison’s relationship is.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens on December 18.
[Photo by Disney]