John Adedayo Bamidele Adegboyega (born 17 March 1992), known professionally as John Boyega, is an English actor and producer. He first rose to prominence in his native Britain for his role as Moses in the sci-fi comedy film Attack the Block (2011), and his international breakthrough came with his role as Finn in the Star Wars sequel trilogy films The Force Awakens (2015), The Last Jedi (2017), and The Rise of Skywalker (2019).
His other credits include the drama film Imperial Dreams (2014), the historical drama film Detroit (2017), the science fiction film Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018), and four episodes of the television series 24: Live Another Day. He received the BAFTA Rising Star Award in 2016, and was awarded the Trophée Chopard at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Boyega was cited as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine in 2020.
Boyega portrayed Leroy Logan in the 3rd episode of Steve McQueen’s anthology series Small Axe (2020), for his performance he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film and the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries.
John Adedayo Bamidele Adegboyega was born on 17 March 1992 in the Camberwell district of London, and grew up in Peckham, the son of Abigail (née Aboderin), who works with disabled people, and Samson Adegboyega, a Pentecostal minister. He has two older sisters. His parents are both of Nigerian descent. His first acting role was as a leopard in a play while at Oliver Goldsmith Primary School. While acting in another play there at age nine, he was noticed by Teresa Early, the artistic director of Theatre Peckham, a learning theatre for young people who live in south London. He spent his time there outside school hours from ages nine to fourteen. There was a rumour that his father wanted Boyega to become a minister like himself, but he has denied this in an interview with Sam Sanders on Fresh Air. He states that his father was supportive of his theatrical interests. Boyega and his sister Grace were among the last people to see Damilola Taylor alive: they were friends and the Boyegas helped watch him.
In 2003, Boyega began his secondary education at Westminster City School, where he partook in various school productions. From 2008 to 2010, he attended South Thames College at the college’s Wandsworth campus to study for a National Diploma in Performing Arts. His activities at the college included playing the title role in the college’s production of Othello. He enrolled at the University of Greenwich to study for a BA in film studies and media writing, but dropped out to focus on his acting career. He trained with the Identity School of Acting in London, and became a patron of its Los Angeles branch when it opened in 2018.
Boyega trained at the Identity School of Acting in Hackney, and appeared in Six Parties at the National Theatre and Category B at the Tricycle Theatre prior to being offered a role in the 2011 film Attack the Block. In September 2011, HBO announced that Boyega had been cast in the boxing drama pilot Da Brick, loosely based on Mike Tyson‘s life. Boyega was expected to play Donnie, who is released from a juvenile detention centre on his 18th birthday and begins to examine what it means to be a man. The pilot was written by John Ridley, but was not picked up by HBO. Also in 2011, he acted in the film Junkhearts in which he portrayed Jamal, a drug dealer who finds some guns and tries to sell them.
Boyega was chosen by Fionnuala Halligan of Screen International as one of the “UK Stars of Tomorrow 2011” and appeared alongside two other actors on the front cover of that magazine in its July 2011 edition. In March 2012, Boyega was cast in the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s book Half of a Yellow Sun. On 29 April 2014, it was confirmed that Boyega had been cast as a major character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was later revealed Boyega would play Finn, a stormtrooper for the First Order, who leaves the military power after witnessing their cruelty in his first combat mission before joining the fight against them. The film was released on 18 December 2015. Both the film and Boyega’s performance received acclaim from critics and audiences alike.
In January 2016, Boyega formed his own production company, Upperroom Entertainment Limited. His company co-produced Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018), the sequel to the 2013 movie Pacific Rim, alongside Legendary Entertainment. Boyega also starred in the lead role of the film, Jake Pentecost. In 2019 John teased his new collaboration with Writer/Director Sebastian Thiel. The two are in development of a series based on their childhood experiences, which Boyega will be producing
In 2018, Boyega subsequently reprised his role as Finn in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, released in 2019. In an interview on Good Morning America, Boyega revealed that he had accidentally left his script in a hotel room during filming. The script subsequently surfaced on eBay but was bought by a Lucasfilm employee to prevent it from being leaked.
In response to a tweet suggesting he should play the DC Comics character Static in a live-action role, Boyega suggested that he would be too old to star in the role and that he would be interested in seeing a newcomer cast as the character, while himself expressing interest in playing the DC character of Red Hood.
In the 2020 and 2021 editions of the Powerlist, Boyega was listed in the Top 100 of the most influential people in the UK of African/African-Caribbean descent. More recently, his production company UpperRoom set a first look deal with VIS Kids. Moreover, he had been filming the Netflix film Rebel Ridge when he unexpectedly walked out mid-production due to family issues.
Activism and advocacy
Boyega showed solidarity with George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, and Stephen Lawrence during a speech at a Black Lives Matter rally in Hyde Park, London. His gesture was supported by a number of celebrities, and Lucasfilm also reiterated their support for Boyega and the Black Lives Matter movement.
In a 2020 interview with the British edition of GQ, Boyega openly criticised Disney for the sidelining of his character Finn in the Star Wars sequel trilogy by commenting: “[W]hat I would say to Disney is do not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up.” Boyega is also a teetotaller.