John Boyega has reached the sci-fi stars. His portrayal as Finn, stormtrooper turned resistance fighter in the legendary Star Wars film saga, has left audiences wanting more. Not only has Mr. Boyega been battling conflict in a galaxy far, far away, he has also been putting his skills to the test against a global threat in the recently released Pacific Rim Uprising. Now, he is making his very first comic convention appearance this weekend at Awesome Con in Washington, DC. Fan Fest News was invited to take part in an exclusive media interview moderated by Awesome Con representative, Lacey Gilleran. Check out some highlights as John discusses his acting career, future projects, embracing his inner nerd and much more.
Lacey: Have you ever attended any conventions before you got into movies and were there ever any actors that you really wanted to meet?
John: No, I haven’t actually. I never really know about them. I didn’t know where they were until after I got into movies.
Lacey: Right and they’ve definitely blown up over the past few years. That being said, if you were to come to Awesome Con as a fan, what would you cosplay as?
John: Ooooh, that’s a good question. I’d probably be Sasuke from Naruto. I’d love to do that as a cosplay.
Lacey: We’re gonna take it back a little bit. Can you talk about your work with Attack the Block and how you started?
John: I auditioned for Attack the Block through my agent at the time. Auditions lasted about a few weeks, I got the part alongside newcomer actors and that was the beginning of my career once Attack the Block got American distribution.
Lacey: That’s awesome. People love that movie. When you started acting, did you ever anticipate having such iconic sci-fi roles? Did you have that dream for yourself?
John: Yeah, definitely. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the sci-fi genre. And also at the same time, I just thought that if I wanted to be in a film, that I always enjoy it, and be a part of it in a very unique way which means playing a character important to the story and at the forefront of these stories as well. But honestly, not specifically to Star Wars or Pacific Rim, I just wanted to be involved in sci-fi.
Lacey: You’re not just actor, you’re also a producer and a writer. Also, we find a lot of people that are talented like yourself have really cool secret hobbies. Do you have any secret hobbies that you could tell us about?
John: Paintballing, I like doing that, I like going up to the group and I like going up to people.
Lacey: Now, getting into Pacific Rim Uprising, what drew you to this project?
John: For me fundamentally, I was just one of the fans that were questioning as to whether the sequel was gonna happen and whether Guillermo del Toro will take the helm. Once I heard that Legendary had plans for it in the future, I was excited like everybody else.
Lacey: Did you do any special preparation to play Jake in Pacific Rim Uprising?
John: Jake is kind of based off of a series of things. Obviously, an entity based off of the character but at the same time his own man and a younger version of myself. So that was the kind of prep I had. Then there was the physical side which was the training, the hand to hand combat, training specifically to use the technology inside the big robot heads that we built and a few other things.
Lacey: Being a fan of the first Pacific Rim yourself, what can fans of the first movie look forward to in Pacific Rim Uprising?
John: There are some scenes that are funny and it’s a great time, it’s fast-paced and before you know it, it’s over and you’re like, aw gosh. It’s also got some cool new characters.
Lacey: Given a list a famous kaiju like Godzilla, Mothra, King Kong… If you could face off against one of these in your Jaeger from Pacific Rim Uprising, which one would you choose and why?
John: Just because I think it’d be cool to see a spectacle like that, I’d definitely choose Godzilla for sure. I’d wanna know how they’d take it down because it’s actually so big. What kind of new advanced weapons would you need to take something like that down?
Lacey: Are you ready to get into Star Wars? You know these are gonna be the more detailed questions from our press.
John: Yeah, sure.
Lacey: Finn’s breaking with the First Order and the story of how he became a soldier really cast all stormtroopers in a new light. It reminded us that people under the masks and armor had their own story. How did Finn’s backstory play into your performance in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi?
John: The big thing is that we didn’t get a chance to go back into Finn’s day to day life as a stormtrooper and for me what I wanted to convey is a person that had been ‘done’. You didn’t get a chance to obviously see the years he had to stay quiet and try to submit to a movement that he doesn’t truly believe in. Playing that, in the beginning, was very, very important so people felt like they could go on this journey with him and they believed his convictions to take a stand and leave. So that was something I went back to. But also at the same time, if you read about the extended Star Wars Force Awakens books, it shows about his rivalry between stormtroopers and how he was always just so different, and that’s explored various ways in different formats of the expanded universe. Those are the kind of things that I kind of wanted to know, those facts, so I could portray that and have that memory… at least as a character.
Lacey: You mentioned the director in The Jedi, how impressed you were with Rian Johnson and how he held it together in spite of all the tremendous pressure. Do you feel that you have any pressure yourself playing Finn and any moments of self-doubt? How did you channel that into your performance of Finn?
John: I think definitely you feel the pressure when it comes to any role. With The Force Awakens, we had so much time auditioning that the role was already built up so that by the time I got to the fourth or fifth audition I felt like I knew who Finn was and I felt like I knew how I was gonna perform exactly. By the time you go into principal photography, you know exactly where the character is gonna go and so being heavily involved, especially with JJ bringing us in, and being able to discuss and rehearse… it makes for an easier transition going obviously from myself as I am, into a character like Finn.
Lacey: Absolutely, and the Star Wars universe definitely loves Finn. Does anything stand out to you with your interactions with Star Wars fans? They’re a passionate bunch.
John: Yeah. One thing that stands out is, I’m not pretending to like Star Wars. It’s been a part of my life for a very, very long time. I love to get into discussions with fans when I meet them. That element to me is what really, really makes it like a dream. I grew up on The Force Unleashed video games, I read The Extended Universe books, I’ve done all of that. So, to be able to discuss that with them and to tell them how it feels as a genuine fan is a cool thing.
Lacey: Being a fan, how is it to see yourself in video games and comic books and as action figures?
John: It’s kind of mad. I’ve always followed all the Star Wars video games so I played Force Unleashed I, Force Unleashed II and then I went onto Star Wars Battlefront but, I didn’t think when part two came out I would be a playable character. It’s strange. I don’t know. They really get my face in the video game and my movement and obviously, I’ve done recordings for it. It’s a real, real cool thing. That for me is one of the perks of the job that I didn’t really think about when I first get into it.
Lacey: Yeah, your face is on everything.
John: No, they do very, very well. There’s something about killing myself in the game that is always gonna be a bit creepy but, ya know.
Lacey: We understand that you collect lightsabers. Are there any other ‘geeky’ things that you collect?
John: Oh yeah. I have Dragon Ball Z figures, I have Naruto figures, I have One Punch Man. I’m a nerd. I just do it right. (laughing)
Lacey: You’re a huge anime guy.
John: Oh yeah, big time! (laughing)
Lacey: Last question. Can you tell us about any projects you’re working on right now and what fans can expect from you next?
John: Next for me is filming Star Wars Episode IX in July. They’ve officially given us a note to start training. I’m gonna take a holiday before that. I think Episode IX, regardless of where the story goes, and I haven’t read it, by the way, it’s gonna be an all-out war. I’m gonna hafta workout and train for that. That’s the next thing, apart from that I’m gonna be producing a TV series that I’m actually not starring in with a new director and with Big talk Productions who did Attack the Block. So that’s next on the roster.
Lacey: Do you plan to go more behind the camera moving forward?
John: Yeah, yeah. It’s a big thing. In 2015, the major goal for us was to develop and be a part of films from the early stages of ideas to paper onto the late stages. So for me now I’m learning, going to different territories and knowing how a film plays. I just want to continually be part of the creative process.
Many thanks to John Boyega for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with the media. Thank you also to Awesome Con for including Fan Fest News in this terrific opportunity. Be sure to catch Mr.Boyega in Pacific Rim Uprising, currently in theaters, and get ready to embrace The Force yet again as he prepares for Star Wars: Episode IX.