Disney has provided me with an expense paid trip to Los Angeles for the #StarWarsEvent in exchange for my coverage of the events of the trip. No other compensation is given. The opinions and experiences in my posts are 100% mine. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
#StarWarsEvent coverage continues! If you’re catching up, you might want to check out my photo tour of the STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS press event, my exclusive interview with Harrison Ford (Han Solo), and my exclusive interview with Daisy Ridley (Rey).
Today I’m sharing my interview with John Boyega, who is Finn in THE FORCE AWAKENS. He describes his character as the first Stormtrooper to decide he really needs a new job. The one thing I really hope comes through in the text below is how high energy and hilarious John is.
He had us laughing throughout the interview and his delivery with that English accent is just perfect. He’s SO likable, just the kind of guy you want to be your friend because you can tell he’s so much fun. And he’s thrilled to be a part of this film. Finn sounds like the most interesting, complex character, too. I can’t wait to see him on the big screen!
Enjoy the interview! (Thank you to Louise from Momstart.com for the photos taken during our interview.)
Q: When you first put on the Stormtrooper outfit and saw yourself in the mirror, what was your reaction?
John: I did like the way my glutes looked. All right, it was a good experience, because 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 kind of 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.
Q: What was your first impression when you raised your lightsaber?
John: Oh, that was a good day. It was in the trailers, anyway. In the ruins- in the castle, and there are these kids who actually make the technology for the lightsabers; they’re quite young. And so they they brought it in this black case, opened the case, I picked up the lightsaber, and I was kinda like, just with a lightsaber, ignore me! And you know, he was just looking at me and you can see how, you know, holding the lightsaber, how that captures the imagination of onlookers and I was definitely egotistical that day.
Q: Do you get to keep it?
John: No. But what I am going to do is go back and write a long list- the Storm Trooper helmet, the rebel jacket- the leather jacket, and the saber. That’s what I’m going to go back and get.
Q: How does it feel to be a part of a franchise that stands for generations?
John: 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, and then also, 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 going to be really dead because you’re going to be everywhere anyway. And I just thought, oh yeah, that’s an interesting thought. And so it’s quite surprising to be a part of that.
Q: What was the first thing that you did when you found out that you actually got the part?
John: It was in a café with J.J. and Larry Kasdan, and he told me face-to-face. I thought he was going to 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 going to tell me it didn’t go my way, he would’ve invited me to a dinner and just go, you know what? At least you get a free meal.
But, you know, it worked out well and 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, all right, mate.
Q: Did you celebrate, then?
John: I didn’t really celebrate. I don’t drink. So everybody else was drinking around me, and I was like, hey, great. But literally the next day, we started training, and I was released into a world of work.
Q: So what kind of training was involved for the lightsabers?
John: Hand-to-hand combat so, specifically me and Adam (Driver – Kylo Ren) had to do the choreograph scenes together. And Finn has a lot of shooting, running, especially with me and Rey. 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, you know, practical effects on the real locations, so there’s no time to slack.
Q: So, just feeding off that, the scene with the explosion… You’re running away from that. Was that you or was that a double?
John: That was me. That was all me. That was all me, all right? I was fantastic. I mean, 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. And I just remember J.J. saying, okay, John, we’re going to do this scene and, just run. Do the dialog. Have fun. Great. All right. 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. They put a plastic cloak over the camera; people putting goggles on and hats. I looked at Daisy like, why, how come we- and they called action, and then I realized, what? And if you watch the scene, I’m actually legit freaking out. I’m too young to die like this! But it was definitely fun, those scenes.
Q: The very first trailer that came out was you. How has your life changed since that trailer came out? That was huge.
John: Do you know what? It’s so strange. This process has been so gradual like. Yesterday night I took an 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.
That’s going to change, but I’m enjoying it now, and I realize that my life is only 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. But, you know, I can pass through Times Square and see my beautiful face 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. All right, naw, that ain’t him. And you know, yeah, I’d like to see him holding a lightsaber- just, all right, naw, it’s not him. So for now, it’s gradual.
Q: So did you play with a lightsaber when you were a kid?
John: 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, 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? I’m not trying to do any of that stuff, and so those are the characters I really relate to, the Hans. I would, you know, do the whole blaster thing.
Q: When you told your dad, he had no idea what Star Wars was.
John: Yeah, Dad had no idea of what Star Wars was, but you know, I have to do my mandatory parental FaceTime every day. And, 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. But for him, he’s starting to realize how big it is. I mean, he’s packing right now to to get on a plane to Seoul to join me for the Asian press tour. And so he’s very excited.
Q: If you had a lightsaber in real life, what color would it be?
John: You know what? My lightsaber would be rainbow colors so they’d know I was there. I’d be like, whooo! I’d be all over, switching, interchangeable, confuse them a little bit and flash modes, and disco mode. I’m about peace; I’m not, I’m not trying to get into fights with no one. I like to stay.
Q: What was, what was the most inspiring thing about your character?
John: I think that what’s so inspiring about Finn is how complex he is. He’s a Stormtrooper who has never really experienced individuality, and I think that we always know Stormtroopers to just be one unit, and we’ve never, ever had a Stormtrooper take off his helmet for us to see who he really is. All you’ve ever had is the lead characters in disguise, and for me, already I find that iconic to me as a fan, to be able to actually talk to one of those.
I always felt sorry for those Stormtroopers, man. It’s like they send them out just to be shot and, I’ve always wanted to say, man, you know what? There must be a different career for you, mate. Finn is the first Stormtrooper to actually go, you know what? I need a new job. So it’s really cool to experience a Stormtrooper in that sense.
Q: Can you say or tell us anything about the relationship between Finn and Poe?
John: 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 very definite in his position of who he fights for, what side he’s on, and Finn is more in limbo.
Finn is kind of like, okay, I don’t want to fight with the Stormtroopers; I don’t wanna fight the resistance; I kind of want to get away, but I have to and Poe gives him a lot of clarity on who he is as a person.
Q: What makes the Star Wars movies and story so timeless in your opinion?
John: 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? That was a few seconds. 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.
Q: You said your dad’s never seen the film, but when did you see the film for the first time?
John: 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 doing acrobatics, so I was like yeah, hell yeah, turn it on, man. Turn it on. Turn it up. And I enjoyed watching it as a kid, and then when I was older, and 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 going to be a Star Wars fan for life is pretty much guaranteed.
Q: Can you describe Finn in three words?
John: Conflicted; charismatic; temporary bravery.
Q: You said you were a Han Solo fan, so what was it like working with Harrison Ford?
John: 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. And we formed a really interesting relationship that really has influenced the Finn and the Han relationship, because the first thing I said to Harrison when I met him- I walked up to him and it’s like, hey, I’m Harrison Ford. And I was like, you look good, man. He was like, well, what did you expect?
And from then, that influenced the way in which Finn sees Han. It’s like, oh man, yeah, gramps is cool. And Hans is kind of like, dude, I’m Han Solo, have respect. And there’s no respect whatsoever. But I think that Hans sees a young Han in Finn, and so they form this bond, and it’s going to be so hilarious when you see their duo, and the lack of respect for each other, but the undertone love that they have is- it’s pretty cool.
Q: What characteristics do you feel you have in common with your character, Finn?
John: I think I’m quite funny, to be honest with you.
But 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. 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 mime 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.
Q: Where did the ability to channel voices come from? I heard you doing Pinocchio from Shrek.
John: My dad. My dad is a minister, 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 because, a normal preacher would handle Noah’s Ark stories from the point of view of Noah. My dad would go to the animals.
He’d be like, this is how the animals felt. He would, like, 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 he 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. From then I’ve always done voices.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Full Press Conference Part #2
You can hear more from John Boyega during the press conference on the video above.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer
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STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKES releases December 18, 2015!
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— Lindsay (@SeeMomClick) December 15, 2015