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 was released at the top of 2016 to good reviews and dominated the box office for several weeks in the cold winter months. The film featured a relatively unknown and new actor on the big screen who is also a Nigerian-British nationality, John Boyega. Boyega, while new to the masses who ran to the theatre to catch Star Wars, has had his reps for many years. He was born in the United Kingdom in 1992 to Nigerian parents and attended an trained at 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. While these films made their mark in the industry, a franchise such as Star Wars creates a platform for Boyega to reach heights in Hollywood that only a few notable names can achieve throughout their acting career.
The Star Wars featuring Boyega as a prominent character by the name of Finn was the first Star Wars I paid for and watched from start to finish. I remember as a young 12 year old hearing about Star Wars and purchasing some of the bootleg merchandise of Darth Vader and hoping to buy a light saber, but not knowing what exactly I was buying since I had no idea what exactly Star Wars meant to the film industry. In the film, Finn was a Stormtrooper who goes AWOL on the First Order because of his moral convictions. Throughout the film, I noted that Boyega was not only great at portraying his nervousness about going AWOL but also had a strong comedic timing that made the entire theatre laugh throughout the film. 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 nervousness partly because this was his first introduction to the dedicated audience of this franchise and he reflected this by doing a phenomenal job as Finn.
I don’t get impressed easily and while my blog reflects many positives in the content I choose to post, it is great to see Boyega recognize his role and take on the responsibilities. Boyega, as Finn was criticized heavily by the fans who seem to think that the characters must follow some sort of biological logic. 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 saw 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 having more lead roles, however, there is no doubt that these two are selecting films that solidifies them as Hollywood stars of our era. 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 and its great that he is a Nigerian.
The latest theatrical release of the franchise Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens is now available on DVD and Blue Ray.