Black History Month Highlights – John Boyega

Today, we're celebrating the accomplishments of actor, producer, and activist John Boyega.

By Chuck Walton

John Boyega in "Detroit."

©Annapurna Distribution/courtesy Everett Collection

In both the 2020 and 2021 editions of the Powerlist, John Boyega is listed as one of the Top 100 most influential people of African/African-Caribbean descent in the UK. He was one of the stars of the recent, highly acclaimed "Small Axe" film series, and he was a powerful voice for change during the George Floyd protests during the summer of 2020. He's John Boyega, and we're proud to highlight this 28-year-old performer.

How You Know Him

Most know Boyega from his role as Finn in the "Star Wars" trilogy movies "The Force Awakens" (2015), "The Last Jedi" (2017) and "The Rise of Skywalker" (2019). He's also appeared in the sci-fi action film "Pacific Rim: Uprising," which he co-produced alongside Guillermo Del Toro and others.

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Lucasfilm / courtesy Everett Collection

Boyega drew critical praise in director Katherine Bigelow's powerful, harrowing crime drama film "Detroit," about the city's 1967 12 Street Riot and aftermath.

Currently drawing raves is Boyega's performance in filmmaker Steve McQueen's "Small Axe" film episode "Red, White and Blue," playing real-life London Metropolitan Police Officer Leroy Logan, who was a founding member of the Black Police Association.

For long-time Boyega fans, they'll know him from his amazing 2011 debut as group leader Moses in "Attack the Block," a sci-fi action millennial cult classic that's a cross between "Gremlins," "The Goonies" and "The Warriors," with Boyega's character being the charismatic, capable and ultra-cool icon who rallies his troops to take down the intergalactic bad guys.

Their Life So Far

Boyega is of Nigerian descent. His dad is a Pentecostal minister and his mom works with disabled people. He has two older sisters, and the kids grew up in South London. Boyega was active early on with theatre, and by his teens, was already tackling the lead in Othello for his school's production. He enrolled in college at the University of Greenwich to study film and media writing, but dropped out to focus on acting.

He was 18 when he was cast for 2011's "Attack the Block," and has been shooting for the stars ever since. In the last decade, he's appeared in 11 films and over a dozen TV projects. Among the small screen highlights have been appearances on "SNL," "24: Live Another Day" and voicing the character of strong rabbit leader Bigwig in a new version of "Watership Down."

Boyega's also been a guiding light for social change in real life, providing an important voice and powerful speech during the George Floyd protests last summer, and speaking out against Disney's treatment of Black characters – including the sidelining of his own Finn character in the "Star Wars" series. Unafraid to say what's right, Boyega has been supported by others in the industry, including Mark Hamill, Jordan Peele, Olivia Wilde and others.

The Movie to Watch

©Annapurna Distribution/courtesy Everett Collection

Lost in the shuffle of his more commercial projects is Boyega's turn in the excellent crime drama "Detroit." Recounting atrocities that occurred involving the police during Detroit's 1967 12th Street Riot, it is a hard watch, but a necessary and relevant one. Boyega plays a private security guard who gets caught up in the incident, and must try to do what he can to defuse the situation and help the victims from racist officers.

Detroit

Crime Drama / 2017

In the summer of 1967, rioting and civil unrest starts to tear apart the city of Detroit. Two days later, a report of gunshots prompts the Detroit Police Department, the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Army National Guard to search and seize an annex of the nearby Algiers Motel. Several policemen start to flout procedure by forcefully and viciously interrogating guests to get a confession. By the end of the night, three unarmed men are gunned down while several others are brutally beaten.

What's Up Next

Boyega will star next as Casi, a New York public defender who becomes disillusioned by the American justice system, in "A Naked Singularity." The film is "It" screenwriter Chase Palmer's directorial debut, and co-stars Olivia Cooke and Bill Skarsgard. It's based on a 2008 novel by Sergio De La Pava.

More Black History Month Highlights:

-Feb. 1 – Regina King

-Feb. 2 – Michael B. Jordan

-Feb. 3 - Idris Elba

-Feb. 4 - Octavia Spencer

-Feb. 5 - Ryan Coogler

-Feb. 6 - Zoe Saldana

-Feb. 7 - Forest Whitaker

-Feb. 8 - Halle Berry

-Feb. 9 - Jordan Peele

-Feb. 10 - Zendaya

-Feb. 11 - Denzel Washington

-Feb. 12 - Viola Davis

-Feb. 13 - Chiwetel Ejiofor

-Feb. 14 - Tyler Perry

-Feb. 15 - John Boyega

-Feb. 16 - Daniel Kaluuya

-Feb. 17 - Danny Glover

-Feb. 18 - Zoe Kravitz

-Feb. 19 - Chadwick Boseman

-Feb. 20 - Spike Lee

-Feb. 21 - Taraji P. Henson

-Feb. 22 - Kerry Washington

-Feb. 23 - Barry Jenkins

-Feb. 24 - Eddie Murphy

-Feb. 25 - Will Smith

-Feb. 26 - Ava DuVernay

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