We sat down with John Boyega in an exclusive interview “party” for his upcoming debut role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Post sponsored by Disney. All magical opinions are my own
Interview photos courtesy of Louise Bishop from MomStart.com
John Boyega Interview for Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Stormtrooper No More
John Boyega is nothing but smiles as he enters the room. “Mommies!” He exclaims as he walks to his chair. “I flossed!” as he nestles into his chair. Not even one question in and the whole room is laughing. Are we at an interview or a comedy club….I’m a little uncertain. But we all knew that we were in for a belly-aching session with John Boyega, aka Finn from the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie. Who is the man behind the Stormtrooper helmet? How has his life changed since the first trailer release? And what’s up with the disco ball lightsaber?
Excitement just exudes from this guy’s face. You can tell, he’s just as thrilled to be sitting in the chair talking to us as we are talking to him. So untarnished from the Hollywood world and just full of life, John Boyega is just full of surprises. Now I’m going to need you to picture an excited kid in a candy shop that does voices every time you see the quotes within the quotes part of this interview. Down to Harrison Ford and even himself, John Boyega has no qualms about breaking into character to give the “full” answer to our questions. There may or may not have been a rave during the interview. I can’t say.
What was the first thing that you did when you found out that you actually got the part?
I was in a café with J.J. and Larry Kasdan, and he told me face-to-face. I thought he was gonna tell me I didn’t get the part because J.J.’s that nice. I’d auditioned for seven months, and I feel like if he was gonna tell me it didn’t go my way, he would’ve invited me to a dinner and just [say], “you know what? At least you get a free meal.” [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]. But you know, it worked out well. I told my agent who I’ve known since I was sixteen, and then randomly told a taxi driver. I was like, “You know what, I’ve just been cast in the new Star Wars!” and he said [nonchalantly], “All right, mate.” [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]
Who is Finn?
So one of the biggest questions of the movie is…Who is Finn? We know that he is a Stormtrooper. We know that he is the first to remove his helmet. But then what? John Boyega dives deeper into the understanding of one of the key characters of the movie.
When you first put on the Storm Trooper outfit and saw yourself in the mirror, what was your reaction?
I did like the way my gluts looked! [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]. It was a good experience. Something like that kind of makes it so real that you’re involved in this universe. When you put on the costume, it’s the final step of becoming a character. You put on the costume, and you see yourself as a character that isn’t you, and so that is something that was quite profound.
Can you describe Finn in three words?
Conflicted. Charismatic. I’ll do it as a joint word – temporary bravery. [LAUGHS].
What was the most inspiring thing about your character?
I think that what’s so inspiring about Finn is how complex he is. He’s a Storm Trooper who has never really experienced individuality. We always know Storm Troopers to just be one unit, and we’ve never, ever had a Storm Trooper take off his helmet for us to see who he really is. All you’ve ever had is the lead characters in disguise. Already I find that iconic to me as a fan, to be able to actually talk to one of those. Because I always felt sorry for those Storm Troopers, man. It’s like they send them out just to be shot. I’ve always wanted to say “Man, you know what? There must be a different career for you, mate.” Finn is the first Storm Trooper to actually go, “you know what? I need a new job.” So it’s really cool to experience a Storm Trooper in that sense.
Can you say or tell us anything about the relationship between Finn and Poe?
When Finn escapes the First Order, he crosses paths with various different characters and Poe is one of them. They definitely have a brother relationship. Finn finds a friend in Poe and Poe represents what Finn wants to be. Poe is definite in his position of who he fights for, what side he’s on. Finn is more in limbo. Finn is kinda like “Okay, I don’t wanna fight with the Storm Troopers. I don’t wanna fight the resistance, I kinda wanna get away, but I have to” and Poe gives him a lot of clarity on who he is as a person.
What characteristics do you feel that you have in common with Finn?
I think I’m quite funny, to be honest with you. [LAUGHS] It was hard to channel Finn. For seven months I was auditioning for the part, and one of the reasons why I feel it was so long is because it’s really hard to channel the character without enough content. So we weren’t allowed a script. We couldn’t take a script home. So I’m having to work with J.J. as if we’re playing one of those mind games, and you have to guess what he’s saying. I’m like, “Okay, Finn is brave.” And J.J.’s having to explain without giving away the whole story, so it has been a lot of me trying to find the extreme versions of myself along with obviously a great script and making a fictional character.
It’s all about the lightsabers
Somehow this section of the interview reminds me of a book. “If you give a John Boyega a lightsaber…” Join the rave party.
Did you play with a lightsaber when you were a kid?
I did, but I was more of a Han dude. I wasn’t really into Luke like that. It’s not because he wasn’t a good character. It’s just because I like the characters that represent human beings in these kind of projects. In sci-fi, if any of us were in the Star Wars universe, we wouldn’t be Luke. We wouldn’t be trying to, you know, fight against- “Naw, hell, naw! I’m trying to live!!” [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] “I’m trying to be Han. I’m trying to make money. I’m trying to survive. And the only reason why I would be brave is to save my own life, alright?!” [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] Yeah, I’m not trying to any of that stuff, and so those are the characters I really relate to is the “Hans.” I would do the whole blaster thing.
What was your first impression when you raised your lightsaber? How was that experience?
That was a good day. There are these kids who actually make the technology for the lightsabers; they’re quite young. And so they brought it in this black case, opened the case. I picked up the lightsaber, and I was kinda like, “Ha, Ha! I just picked up a lightsaber! ME! [LAUGHS]. And you know, he was just looking at me and you can see how holding the lightsaber, how that captures the imagination of onlookers. I was definitely egotistical that day.
What kind of training was involved for the lightsabers?
Hand-to-hand combat. So specifically me and Adam had to do the choreograph scenes together. Finn has a lot of shooting, running, especially with me and Ray. Me and Daisy had to get our cardiovascular skills up, and that was treacherous. But it was fun because now filming the scenes, you realize why the training was so intense because the scenes are literally practical effects “Psssh!” on the real locations, so there’s no time to kind of slack.
If you had a lightsaber in real life, what color would it be? [cue glowsticks!]
You know what? My lightsaber would be rainbow colors so they’d know I was there. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] I’d be like, whooo!!!! It’s. About. To. Go. Down! [LAUGHS]. I’d be all over this! Switching interchangeable! [LAUGHS] Confuse them a little bit and flash modes, you know and disco mode! [LAUGHS]. I’m about peace! I’m not trying to get into fights with no one!
About That Explosion
If you’ve seen the trailer, you definitely remember John Boyega’s face. Filled with genuine heart pounding fear and surprise, I definitely felt like I was right there with him. But was John Boyega really playing up those acting skills…?
That scene with the explosion where you’re running away. Was that you or a double?
[Hands in the air] That was me. That was all me! That was all ME! [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] Alright? I was fantastic. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] With explosions like that, there are health and safety regulations and all those things. But while we were on set, I didn’t think I expected them to be that big. I just remember [the crew] coming and saying, “Okay, John, we’re gonna do this scene and just run. Do the dialog. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] Have fun. Great! Alright! Cameras! Action! And I’m running, and I look at Daisy, and see that everyone’s backing up. J.J.’s going further and further away [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]. They put a plastic cloak over the camera. People putting goggles on and hats. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]. I looked at Daisy like, “Wha? how come we…?” And they called action, and then I realized. If you watch the scene, I’m actually legit freaking out [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]. I’m like “no, hell no! [LAUGHS] I’m too young to die like this!” But it was definitely fun, those scenes.
We Are Family
I found the recurring theme of John’s father a key part in the person that John is today. A few questions surprised us and really took family to heart.
When you told your dad [you got the part], he had no idea what Star Wars was…
Dad had no idea what Star Wars was. But you know, I have to do my mandatory parental FaceTime every day. He always tells me how crazy it is for him to go onto the tube and just see his son. And he’s just there like- “I created him.” [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]. But for him, he’s starting to realize how big it is. I mean he’s packing right now to get on a plane to join me for the Asian press tour. And so, yeah, he’s very excited.
Where did you get all of these voices from? [referring to John’s voice characters acted out during the entire hilarious interview]
My dad is a Pentecostal minister. Growing up in church was very entertaining with my dad because if you went to a normal church, it would be quite stoic and serious. But when you went to my dad’s church, it was hilarious and engaging. A normal preacher would handle Noah’s Ark stories from the point of view of Noah. My dad would go to the animals [LAUGHS]. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] It’s how the animals felt,[LAUGHS]. And he would tell a story of Mrs. Tiger and Mr. Tiger, and how they had conflict, and how they had to have faith and go together and get on Noah’s Ark, and all this kind of stuff. And [dad] would do the voices. And for me, I picked that up, and obviously Shrek and all those animated films…The first movie I saw in a theater was A Bug’s Life, and so I’ve always been exposed to larger than life movies. And so from then I’ve always done voices.
The Star Wars Legacy
Getting a grip on the fact that John Boyega is now a part of the Star Wars history has been an interesting journey, and certainly only the beginning. Find out how John Boyega is dealing with the surmounting fandom. And don’t ever call Harrison Ford Gramps.
When did you see [Star Wars] for the first time?
I saw the film a few years after the Phantom Menace came out. I was born in ’92, so I was exposed to the prequels first. And as a kid, I didn’t really care about story and all that kind of stuff. I just saw that green guy [ahem, Yoda!] doing acrobatics, so I was like “Yeah, hell, yeah! Turn it on, man! Turn it on! Turn it up!” I enjoyed watching it as a kid. Then when I was older, I was more aware that I wanted to be an actor. And I liked story. I watched the originals and that just finished me. Apart from death and taxes, the part that I’m gonna be Star Wars fan for life is pretty much guaranteed.
You said you were a Han Solo fan, so what was it like for working with Harrison Ford?
Do you know, it’s so funny. Me and Harrison are obviously best friends. He would tell you that. We go way back. It’s ridiculous. We formed a really interesting relationship that really has influenced the Finn and the Han relationship.
The first thing I said to Harrison when I met him…I walked up to him and he’s like [in a grumbling voice], “Hey, I’m Harrison Ford.” And I was like “You look good, man!” [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] He was like, “Well, what did you expect?” [LAUGHS] [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]
And from then, that influenced the way in which Finn sees Han. It’s like, “Oh man, yeah Gramps is cool!” And Han is kind of like, “Dude, I’m Han Solo. Have respect!” And there’s no respect whatsoever. But I think that Han sees a young Han in Finn, and so they form this bond. It’s gonna be so hilarious when you see their duo, and the lack of respect for each other, but the undertone love that they have. It’s pretty cool.
That very first trailer that came out was you. How has your life changed since that trailer came out?
Do you know what? It’s so strange. This process has been so gradual. Like yesterday night, I took a Uber to movie theater to see Creed. I watched Creed; loved it! I was on the streets, shouting about with my boys on Hollywood Boulevard, and I went to a car show last night. And no one, no one, no one recognized me. Yeah, that’s gonna change. But I’m enjoying it now. I realize that my life is gonna be different in terms of scheduling. I’m traveling a lot and I don’t get time to be at home as much as I want to. And I can pass through Times Square and see my beautiful face just can-you-imagine? on the screen, but it’s really strange how that all works. And I think that because I still move through public places, sometimes people recognize me, but they do this. “Naw. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]. Naw, that ain’t him. Yeah, I’d like to see him holding a lightsaber! Naw, it’s not him.” [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] But yes, for now it’s gradual.
What makes the Star Wars movies and story so timeless in your opinion?
In my opinion, I just think it’s the continuous dialog between fans. Fans have the ability to make a whole press conference on probably two minutes worth of footage. Like “Who shot first?” There’s a whole debate about that, and that keeps fans engaged even when the movies aren’t there. There’s only been six films, but if you look at the fandom, it reflects as if there’s been twenty. I think it’s because there are different ways in which you can experience Star Wars. You don’t necessarily have to watch the films. You can just have the merchandise and just know it from there. So there’s several ways that you can be a Star Wars fan, and I think that’s different than any other property.
How does it feel to be a part of a franchise that spans for generations?
It feels really cool and quite weird at the time. You don’t think about all of those specifics when you’re auditioning because it’s all about booking the part. You don’t think about that while you’re filming because it’s about the reality of the scenes. But the characters don’t know that they’re in Star Wars movie that will change people’s lives. So they’re in their reality. But I remember being with my driver in the UK when we’re going to set, and he was just like, “you know what, mate? When you die, you’re not gonna be really dead because you’re gonna be everywhere anyway” [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]. And I just thought, “Oh yeah, that’s an interesting thought.” And so it’s quite surprising to be a part of that.
Have you been following along my #StarWarsEvent journey? Catch up on all of the exclusive Star Wars: The Force Awakens press events here!
- Exclusive Harrison Ford Interview
- Exclusive Daisy Ridley Interview
- Photo Tour of the Star Wars Global Press Event
See Finn, the first Stormtrooper to take off his helmet in Star Wars: The Force Awakens coming to theaters December 18, 2015!
Are you excited about Star Wars: The Force Awakens newest character, Finn?
This post is sponsored by Disney. I received an all-inclusive press trip in exchange for this posting. All Star Wars loving opinions are my own. Be sure to follow Raising Whasians for more Disney movie updates!
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