While John Boyega has proven himself to be one of the most talented actors of his generation, the Londoner is just beginning to make his mark behind the scenes, producing and starring in the highly-anticipated action film, Pacific Rim Uprising.
In this interview with EBONY, the humble creative discusses the new film, including how it felt to play the son of one of his own inspirations, Idris Elba. The star also talks stunts, working with Steven S. DeKnight on his first feature and how it felt to step up as a producer this time around.
When you were reading the script, what appealed to you about this character, Jake Pentecost?
I think it was a combination of things. I like the fact that I was dealing with a sci-fi hero that didn’t care about being a hero. I was dealing with a guy who had a nonchalant attitude. He was a bit of an asshole in the beginning, but through the script, you get to see him becoming the man he is supposed to become. And also, I knew that he wasn’t Stacker Pentecost, who was played by Idris [Elba]. You have to feel when you are watching Jake that you could be like, ‘OK, cool. That is definitely Stacker’s son.’ He’s also, at the same time, his own man. And to be able to even play a role in relation to Idris is an honor to me.
Did you study Idris’ performance from the first film while preparing for this role?
I didn’t exactly study it. It was important for the character to feel like his own man, but at the same time understand that you can’t run away from being your father’s son. I wanted people to see Jake and think, ‘Oh, that’s Stacker’s son, for sure,’ while creatively imparting my own ideas into how Jake would be and how he would react. Jake doesn’t want to be anything like his dad. He hates the comparison. Sometimes young people strive to not be like their parents only to grow up and realize, ‘man, I’m turning into my dad.’ That’s something I wanted to explore as well.
Stunts are to be expected in these big-budget action flicks. How comfortable are you doing your own stunts?
I’m very, very comfortable doing them. It’s fun and it’s a great way for the camera to be able to catch you in a moment doing something dangerous, which helps the audience believe the story more. I told myself before filming that I really needed to start training up because I have a few cliffs to jump off and things slide down and people to beat up [laughs].
Have you ever been injured while filming?
No, not yet! [laughs].
You’ve been a part of some amazing ensemble casts, but what was it like leading a film with so many talented co-stars?
It was fantastic! I had a good old time! Being lead doesn’t mean there’s a big sign over your head that says, ‘LEAD’ [laughs]. It actually made me more excited to collaborate. Whatever is done between you and your costars will help support the role you’ve found yourself in. For me, I found that in moments where I wanted to figure more things out or try something new, my costars were always there to support me.
How was it working with director Steven S. DeKnight on his first feature film?
It was great. It took me back to the days of working with Joe Cornish, I have a knack for working with people who are doing their first features. I think there’s a raw, fun, collaborative energy that is at its freshest stage. Steve is a fantastic collaborator, a great listener and that’s how we came to a point where we felt confident in the movie and for it to be released this way.
Check out Boyega in this exclusive featurette as he discusses the film as a producer.
Pacific Rim Uprising hits theaters March 23rd.
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.