British-Nigerian Hollywood actor, John Boyega, has lived outside his native country all his life. He had his education in the United Kingdom and began his career there too. And since playing Finn in the 2015 film ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and its 2017 sequel ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi,’ the actor has enjoyed a swift rise to fame, and it does not look like he plans on slowing down soon. Boyega grew up on an estate in Peckham, south London, with his parents and two older sisters. His father was a preacher who ran his own church and his mother was a career who took care of the disabled. As a boy he was small for his age, so that kids picked on him. But he soon learnt to stand up for himself after he courageously faced two boys who wanted to nab his phone off him on a bus ride home after school. Boyega remembers that he slapped the boys as hard as a parent would slap an erring child, and he felt good about it. He never let anyone pick on him and just knew from then on that everything was going to be fine. He attended Oliver Goldsmith Primary School and Westminster City School for his elementary and secondary education, respectively. While in school, Boyega did not fit in. He struggled with school work and found it difficult to keep up with others. During lessons, he said in an interview, instead of paying attention, he would dream of the movies he had seen earlier. He was also not good at sports but seemed to do well in plays whenever there was one to participate in.
It was while acting in a school play when he was just nine that Boyega caught the attention of Teresa Early, the artistic director of Theatre Peckham, a learning theatre for young people who live in south London.
The actor, who has been reported as having a deep voice and a joyous, high-pitched laugh like an attack of hiccups, would later join the theatre after obtaining financial assistance from a hardship fund, and spend his time there outside school hours between the ages of nine and 14. Like most Nigerian fathers, Boyega’s father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a minister. And even though Boyega describes his father as the living example of who he’d like to embody because he is a very good, genuine man, he never factored towing the line of ministering like his old man. It took the intervention of his drama teacher to convince his parents to let him keep acting. After his father’s change of heart, he has found support from them in his career choice.After secondary school, Boyega proceeded his studies at South Thames College, where he graduated with a National Diploma in Performing Arts. Still interested in furthering his education, he then enrolled at the University of Greenwich to bag a degree in Film Studies and Media Writing, only to drop out after a year, to focus on his acting career.
As a young actor, Boyega kicked off his career taking up roles in theatre and appearing in ‘Six Parties’ at the National Theatre and ‘Category B’ at the Tricycle Theatre. He made a switch to movies when he landed a part in the British sci-fi comedy, ‘Attack The Block.’ Since then, he has featured in ‘Junkhearts,’ (2011) ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ (2013) which is based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel of the same name and which stars Hollywood actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and Anika Noni, and Nollywood actors Genevieve Nnaji, OC Ukeje and Onyeka Onwenu, among others.He also featured in ‘Imperial Dreams,’ a 2014 movie which was directed by Malik Vitthal, and several other movies.It was his meeting JJ Abrams in Los Angeles in 2012 while working on a Spike Lee pilot for a TV boxing drama that never got made that really heralded his fame in Hollywood. ‘The Star Wars’ director had seen Boyega in ‘Attack The Block,’ told him he loved it and promised to get him a part in something. In 2014, after a seven-month audition process, Boyega was offered the part of Finn in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’ Once when he was in the country, the Hollywood star who has never distanced himself from the Nigerian movie industry, Nollywood, announced plans of developing a few Nigerian stories. Boyega, who names ‘Blood Sisters,’ which stars Genevieve Nnaji and Omotola Jalade, as the first Nollywood movie he ever watched, said they intend to choose the best of the stories to make a low budget movie of $20-$25 million. His plan is to, after developing the stories, merge Hollywood with Nollywood to bring the genuine and most important Nigerian stories to light. And as a professional who has worked with some of the best of the best in the industry, do the films in a ‘‘very important and professional way.”
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