John Boyega Biography

Actor (1992–)
British actor John Boyega rose to fame for playing Finn in the international hit 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.' Other prominent projects include a starring role in the police drama 'Detroit.'

Who Is John Boyega?

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). The actor reprised the role in the 2017 sequel, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and that year also starred in the gritty police drama Detroit.

Early Acting Interest

John Boyega was born on March 17, 1992, in London, England. Before achieving international fame with his role in the 2015 blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the son of Nigerian immigrants grew up in a public housing project in the Peckham area of London. 

Boyega was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a preacher, but early in life he 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, and he performed with a local arts organization called Theatre Peckham. He went on to South Thames College, where he tackled the role of Shakespeare's Othello. Boyega also studied his craft at the Identity School of Acting in Hackney and was later a student at Greenwich University, before dropping out to focus on his career.

First Film & TV Roles

In 2011, Boyega received warm reviews for his feature film debut in Attack the Block, playing a tough, urban teen who fights off an alien invasion with his friends. 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. The following year, Boyega headlined Imperial Dreams, playing a former gang member looking to straighten out his life after being released from prison.  

‘Star Wars’ Fame

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 First Order. This installment of the much beloved Star Wars film franchise proved to be a huge box office hit, bringing in nearly $530 million in its opening weekend, and provided a showcase for Boyega to display both his dramatic and comedic chops.

The actor reprised the role of Finn for the eagerly anticipated sequel, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which hit theaters in December 2017.

'Detroit' and Other Films

Following the smashing success of The Force Awakens, Boyega earned a prominent role in the thriller The Circle (2017), alongside Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. That year he also starred in Detroit, a dramatized version of events related to the city's 12th Street Riot of 1967, from director Kathryn Bigelow. Boyega was next slated to headline the 2018 sci-fi action flick Pacific Rim Uprising.

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