London-born actor John Boyega first started performing as a kid in a local theater group. After studying at South Thames College, he landed his first major movie role in 2011’s Attack the Block. More film work quickly followed, including Half of a Yellow Sun (2013) and Imperial Dreams (2014). Boyega soon landed the project of a lifetime—starring as Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).
Early Life and Career
Born on March 17, 1992, in London, England, John Boyega achieved international fame with his role in the 2015 blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He grew up in a public housing project in the Peckham area of London. The son of Nigerian immigrants, Boyega was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a preacher like him. But early on, Boyega discovered a different passion. His first acting role was in elementary school, playing a leopard. Boyega told Interview magazine that “I went on all fours and I was playing this leopard, and I gave him character breakdown, and I was doing the work and doing the research and creating a character.” This early experience inspired Boyega to pursue acting. He performed with a local arts organization called Theatre Peckham and went to South Thames College. There Boyega tackled the role of Othello in the famed Shakespearean tragedy of the same name. According to the college’s website, he considers the competition he performed in at the National Theatre as “the breakthrough for me.” Boyega also studied his craft at the Identity School of Acting in Hackney. He was later a student at Greenwich University, but he dropped out to focus on his career.
‘Star Wars’ Star
In 2011, Boyega received warm reviews for his feature film debut. He plays Moses, a tough, urban teen, who fights off an alien invasion with his friends in Attack the Block. On the small screen, Boyega landed a guest spot on Law & Order UK that same year. He had to cope with some disappointment around this time as well. Boyega worked with Spike Lee on the pilot for the John Ridley-penned boxing drama Da Brick, but the series wasn’t picked up.
Boyega bounced back by starring in the 2012 TV movie My Murder. He went on to a supporting role in the 2013 feature film Half of a Yellow Sun, which explores the Nigerian civil war in 1960s. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose also starred in the movie. Boyega went on to lead the cast of Imperial Dreams (2014), playing a former gang member looking to straighten out his life after being released from prison.
In 2015, Boyega’s career hit new heights with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He plays a new character, Finn, a Stormtrooper who changes sides to help Rey (Daisy Ridley) fight against the evil empire known as the First Order. This installment of the much beloved sci-fi Star Wars film series proved to be a huge box office hit, bringing in more than $230 million in its opening weekend and winning acclaim for Boyega. The actor will follow up his Star Wars success with the upcoming thriller The Circle, co-starring with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks.
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