English actor John Boyega has a handle of credits to his name but he hit the big time with his role as Finn in the Star Wars franchise. He debuted the role in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and reprised it in the recently released sequel Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While he professionally goes by John Boyega, his full name is John Adedayo B. Adegboyega, a name reflective of his Nigerian heritage.
Growing up in London, Boyega caught the acting bug early and worked in a theatre for young actors. His Pentecostal minister father wasn’t too keen on his son’s interest in the arts, hoping that he would instead follow in his footsteps. His father eventually came around and is likely now quite proud of his son’s success. He certainly seemed to enjoy himself on the red carpet when Boyega brought the entire family to the London Star Wars: The Last Jedi premiere.
Acting may well have kept Boyega out of trouble, as gangs and guns and drugs were a big part of life for many of his peers where he grew up. Boyega honed his acting craft at South Thames College. He later enrolled at the University of Greenwich to study Film Studies & Media Writing but he ultimately dropped out to focus on his growing acting career.
His film debut was in 2011’s Attack the Block, a turn that won him a Black Reel Award for Best Actor and a number of other nominations. He also has had a number of guest roles on television series, including short stints on Becoming Human and 24: Live Another Day. A big Marvel fan, Boyega’s dream role was Black Panther. Although not getting that gig must have stung, a scene-stealing and star-turning role in the Star Wars franchise surely cushioned the blow. Boyega was originally the second choice for the role of Finn and only got it when Jesse Plemons left for another role. As a big Star Wars fan, it wasn’t a big decision for Boyega even though it meant dropping out of the Jesse Owens biopic, Race.
The 25-year-old actor has said that his own life has a number of parallels to Finn. Getting recognized and seeing himself depicted on merch has been a surreal experience for the actor. He had better get used to it because this young star is only getting started. His high-profile Star Wars role has already gotten him other work, including a big role in Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit and the upcoming Pacific Rim Uprising.