John Boyega (born 17 March 1992) is a British actor best known for playing Finn in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Boyega rose to prominence in the United Kingdom for his role of Moses in the 2011 sci-fi comedy film Attack the Block before attaining international recognition for his work as Finn in the seventh film of the Star Wars series.
Some other credits include historical fiction drama film Half of a Yellow Sun (2013), four episodes of the television series 24: Live Another Day and the drama Imperial Dreams (both 2014).
Boyega was born in Peckham, South London, to Nigerian parents, Abigail and Samson. His first role was a leopard in a play at his primary school at the age of 5. Boyega went to church with his family every day. His father, who is a preacher, wanted Boyega to follow in his footsteps and join the ministry. He was noticed by the Artistic Director of Theatre Peckham, Teresa Early, who saw him act in a primary school play and invited him to join the theatre school for talented children between the ages of 9 and 14, after obtaining financial assistance from a hardship fund. He attended Westminster City School as a teenager. He later took part in various school productions and attended classes at Theatre Peckham. He was a performing arts student at South Thames College in Wandsworth and was active in theatre productions there, including the lead in Othello in 2010.
Boyega also studied Film and TV at University of Greenwich.
Boyega trained at the Identity School of Acting in Hackney, and appeared in Six Parties at the National Theatre and Category B at the Tricycle Theatre prior to being offered a role in the 2011 film Attack the Block. In September 2011, HBO announced that Boyega had been cast in the boxing drama pilot Da Brick, loosely based on Mike Tyson’s life. Boyega was expected to play Donnie, who is released from a juvenile detention centre on his 18th birthday and begins to examine what it means to be a man. The pilot was written by John Ridley, but was not picked up by HBO. Also in 2011, he acted in the film Junkhearts in which he portrayed a drug dealer who finds some guns and tries to sell them.
Boyega was chosen by Fionnuala Halligan of Screen International as one of the “UK Stars of Tomorrow 2011” and appeared alongside two other actors on the front cover of that magazine in its July 2011 edition.
In March 2012, Boyega was cast in the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book Half of a Yellow Sun.
On 29 April 2014, it was confirmed that Boyega had been cast as a lead character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was later revealed Boyega would play Finn, a stormtrooper for the First Order, who leaves the fascist military power after witnessing their cruelty in his first combat mission before joining the fight against them. The film was released on 18 December 2015.
Boyega has stated in an interview that he is a fan of Marvel Comics, and that he had hoped to play the Marvel character Black Panther.