John Boyega sets his sights on Othello

By Rebecca Jones
Arts correspondent, BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

You'll probably know him best as Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

But now John Boyega is putting the lightsaber aside as he prepares for his first leading role on stage.

He will star in a new adaptation of Georg Buchner's play Woyzeck at the Old Vic in London.

Here are seven things we asked him ahead of the show's opening next month.

How did he get the part?

Image source, Old Vic / Manuel Harlan
Image caption, Woyzeck, which also stars Sarah Greene, opens in May

"This is a big leap for me," says Boyega, who has appeared on stage before, but only in minor roles.

He doesn't know whether he would have got the role had he not been in The Force Awakens.

"I worked bloody hard to get Star Wars, so even getting Star Wars was a lot.

"Would I have been as confident being on stage without Star Wars, without that appeal to draw people into the theatre? No.

"So I'm glad I got Star Wars and I'm glad the Old Vic made this decision at this time."

Which famous friends would he most like to see in the audience?

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, Could Daniel Craig or Harrison Ford be in the audience?

"Maybe Daniel Craig will come down. That would be cool." (The James Bond star secretly played a Stormtrooper in The Force Awakens.)

Boyega says he would also like Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo in Star Wars, to come.

"Harrison needs to stop flying", he laughs, referring to the actor's recent near miss with an aeroplane in California.

"If he can get a commercial flight that would be fantastic."

Who will be in the new Star Wars film?

Media caption, Princes William and Harry visited Pinewood studios and met the cast of Star Wars last year

The Last Jedi, the next film in the Star Wars franchise will be released in December.

Boyega will be back as Finn, alongside his co-star Daisy Ridley as Rey and original stars Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and the late Carrie Fisher, who had recorded her scenes as Princess Leia before she died in December 2016.

Gary Barlow has revealed he will appear as a Stormtrooper.

But John Boyega was not giving much away. "I have no comment," he says, "but he does look good in a Star Wars suit."

There are also rumours that Prince William and Prince Harry will be appearing, as the pair allegedly filmed cameo appearances while touring the set of Pinewood Studios in April.

"No comment on that," John Boyega laughs, "but they look good too".

Are there any downsides to being in Star Wars?

Image source, Disney
Image caption, Boyega starred alongside Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Boyega says his experience on Star Wars has been "fantastic".

But, in the age of social media, "it does have its low times".

The actor admits he does not always want to have his picture taken when "you're trying to go to Tesco to buy your 16-pack Wotsits".

But, on the flip side, he says "it's all mentality".

"Sometimes you have to get out of your own body and go, okay look at where I was before and look at the work it took to get here."

Is diversity in Hollywood improving?

Image source, Getty Images

When Boyega was first seen in a teaser for Star Wars: the Force Awakens, he received racist abuse on the internet.

The hashtag #blackstormtrooper was trending on Twitter. The lack of diversity on screen remains a talking point.

But when asked if the situation improving, Boyega is unequivocal.

"No it's not, it's not getting better," he says. "It's something that I know is on a lot of people's minds. There is slight change.

"But it will take time. Even if everybody was on board right now, we still have a system in place that can sometimes holds us back.

"So, I think the best thing is positive hope and good work and a little bit of faith."

Does he enjoy social media stardom?

Image source, Getty Images

Unlike many actors, John Boyega, who is 25, has Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts.

"Sometimes the acting career ages you a bit," he says. "Sometimes you see the West End kids and you see kids in film and they are still kids, but they have been coached to come across a certain way.

"But for me, I don't hide that. Knowing that I have good self control when it comes to what I tweet and what I Instagram, it's not that deep, it is a perk that I still get to enjoy."

What other plays would he like to be in?

Image source, Entertainment One
Image caption, Boyega will star in Detroit, released later this year

Boyega's next major film is the Kathryn Bigelow-directed film Detroit, which will be released in August.

But the actor is keen to do more theatre in the future, and he has his eye on Shakespeare.

"Othello. I'd like to do Othello," he says.

Casting directors, take note.

Woyzeck is at the Old Vic in London from 15 May to 24 June

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