John Boyega on Auditioning for the Newest ‘Star Wars’ Hero

November 13, 2015

The Star Wars franchise has enthralled sci-fi fans for almost 40 years with lead actors like Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher. So when Disney chose to cast a black man wearing the iconic Star Wars‘ Stormtrooper armor in Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens last year, it stirred up some degree of controversy over the internet. But that didn’t slow down John Boyega who will portray Finn, a redeemed First Order Stormtrooper, in the upcoming film. “Who wouldn’t want to be in ‘Star Wars?’ It’d be great,” remarked the 23-year-old actor. “When you’re a working actor, and they tell you you’ve got an audition for a movie, diversity isn’t the first thing you think about,” he told CNET. It is Finn who is set to carry the narrative that’s been established from the original movies in the franchise, and keep it going in two subsequent films. Episode VII is the first in a new trilogy (part seven of nine–at least that we know of so far) and the story takes place about 30 years after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi.

The relatively unknown British actor spoke about auditioning for this role of a lifetime, explaining, “…I had to acquire a dramatic approach because of the content on the page. But then after a while I thought to myself, ‘Wait, this is ‘Star Wars.’ ‘Star Wars’ is differenet from any other project. ‘Star Wars’ has its own culture. It has its own energy. I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to go to YouTube, and I’m going to watch Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford’s audition for the original ‘Star Wars’ movie.'”

While watching Hamill and Ford audition, Boyega noticed a “casual approach to danger and to being a hero” that inspired him. As he explains, “If you see Harrison in his audition and Mark, there’s this, ‘The ship’s about to blow up, but, woo hoo! Switch to light speed!’ I love that. No other movie does that. In another movie they’d be crying and calling their parents, but in ‘Star Wars’ it’s like, ‘woo!'”

Director, co-producer, and co-writer J.J. Abrams spoke about the concerns of the casting process with Wired Magazine. “The key in casting…was finding people who were able to do everything. When you think about all that these characters go through, not just in this movie but knowing their work would continue, these individuals needed to be worthy bearers of this burden and opportunity to continue to tell the story.” Additionally, the new cast members would not only need to have chemistry with one another, but must feel right with the returning original stars. As Abrams described it, “Daisy [Ridley] and John [Boyega] could work together, but what happens when Harrison’s in the mix? That will that feel like? If it doesn’t spark, it’s a f—ing disaster.”

Clearly, John Boyega was the man for the role. Boyega explains, “Charisma is a big thing about Finn that I had to tap into. Finn has an inner confidence that is really, really mine.” After landing the role, he endured seven months of training, and read from scripts that he was not allowed to take home. The film has an estimated budget of $200 million, and is expected to break box office records.

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens will be released in theaters on December 18.