Leading Off With Star Wars
Illustration by Seun Ajibola
There is a financial district in Toronto known as Bay Street. Blue and Grey suits abound, business men and women gallop up and down the street conversing in financial speak. On a warm summer evening in 2013, I gathered a few of my professional friends and we headed to the theatre to watch the film Fruitvale Station. It was the first lead actor role for Michael B. Jordan, best known for his role in The Wire as Wallace. Jordan shined in the film and we all came out shaken by the experience of the young man from Oakland portrayed by Jordan, however, we appreciated the fact that we got to witness the start of a star actor.
Star Wars opened to good reviews and dominated the box office for several weeks in the winter. The film featured a young actor who is of Nigerian-British nationality – John Boyega. Boyega, while new Hollywood, has had his reps. He was born in the United Kingdom in 1992 to Nigerian parents and attended the School of Acting in Hackney. Boyega notable highlights in his career include his role in Half of a Yellow Sun and the Sci-fi comedy film Attack the Block. However, Star Wars as a franchise places Boyega on a platform for stardom.
Boyega is the character named Finn. Finn is a Stormtrooper who goes AWOL on the First Order because of his moral convictions. Throughout the film, I noted that Boyega is great at portraying his nervousness about going AWOL but also had a strong comedic timing. I gather that actors channel certain parts of their experience and reflect it in a role to give a stronger performance. Boyega, to me, reflected this nervousnes because this was his first introduction to Hollywood.
Boyega was criticized heavily by fans who believe that Star Wars characters should not be black. Boyega took on the criticism by explaining how ridiculous the fans criticisms were and how illogical the conclusions were in a poised fashion. I was impressed. Actors and other entertainers seem to shy away from addressing criticism for reasons that are too shallow for me to dive into, however, Boyega at such a young age is able to articulate his thoughts without coming across as angry or emotional about other people’s feelings. This is a skill I believe will take him far as the criticism will grow as his stardom blossoms.
The feeling I got when I watched Fruitvale Station and the growth of Michael B. Jordan from his days from acting as Wallace on The Wire was what I felt for Boyega in Star Wars. These two are close in age with Jordan in more lead roles, however, there is no doubt that these two have acted in films that solidifies them as Hollywood stars. Jordan may end up being more revered over the long-term as he started earlier and has proven himself, however, Boyega will give him a run for that top spot.