Why John Boyega is the movie hero we’ve been waiting for

The British director Steve McQueen notes on the key of success in the entertainment industry: “It’s all about access, possibility and luck.” It seems that all the aforementioned elements are working in the favor of the British-Nigerian actor John Boyega, the Star Wars star who’s vying for the status of Hollywood heartthrob, 2016.

Naturally, there are various elements that compose the classic heartthrob: Looks, talent, and natural charm. Boyega has this all locked up, believe us. At nineteen, Boyega first lit up the screen in the sci-fi cult-hit Attack the Block. J.J. Abrams loved the film, and after an arduous audition process, Boyega was cast as the Stormtrooper Finn in Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, giving the Star Wars universe a new charismatic (and non-white) lead.

The only black man who’s ever received the honor of People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” was Denzel Washington in 1996. That was almost twenty years ago, and since then there has been a serious drought of leading black men in mainstream media. Sure, there’s Captain America’s Anthony Mackie, Black Panther’s Chadwick Boseman, 12 Years a Slave’s Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Creed’s Michael B. Jordan, but they didn’t receive the mainstream hype and beauty buzz as their white counterparts — e.g., Marvel’s Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Pratt. It’s time for more diversity, and the 23-year old Boyega is the fresh face who will lead the way, thanks to these traits

He’s crazy talented

Boyega played the reluctant leader Moses in Attack the Block; the talented but troubled Ugwu in the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book Half of a Yellow Sun; sailor William Bond in BBC’s The Whale; a real-life tale that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. It’s clear that Boyega has tapped into his talent. Acting chops aside, he’s apparently a mean voice actor as seen in his Good Morning America interview with his co-star Daisy Ridley, where he convincingly does the voice of Pinocchio from Shrek. It’s clear that Boyega has talent oozing out of his pores.

Look at how incredibly charming he is

Even the most stoic reporter can’t help but be enamored with the disarmingly nice Londoner. During the press junket for The Force Awakens, he was full of funny quips,  he doesn’t hide his admiration for Harrison Ford — who must secretly like Boyega’s fawning. His grounded attitude, enthusiasm, and humbleness on social media and in interviews is contagious, as is his love for his Bengal cat Oluwalogan. Also, Boyega and co-star Ridley affectionately call each other peanut. What more do you want?

He’s whip-smart, too

The announcement of Boyega’s casting ruffled some feathers in the fandom; there was a racist boycott campaign on social media started by “fans” who couldn’t wrap their mind around the fact that talented non-white men —Boyega’s co-star is the Guatemalan actor Oscar Isaac — are leading characters in their favorite franchise. In their rage, they glossed over the fact that Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones, and Samuel L. Jackson, are all part of the Star Wars universe.

Boyega handled the criticism with aplomb. He certainly doesn’t mince his words. From his clear response to a misguided Telegraph article where he tweeted: “ Inaccurate. Stereotypical. NOT my story.”; to his EW quote: “There are loads of people of different shades and backgrounds. Get used to it”; to the shutdown in his NY Times interview :“I’m grounded in who I am, and I am a confident black man. A confident, Nigerian, black, chocolate man. I’m proud of my heritage, and no man can take that away from me. I wasn’t raised to fear people with a difference of opinion. They are merely victims of a disease in their mind. To get into a serious dialogue with people who judge a person based on the melanin in their skin? They’re stupid, and I’m not going to lose sleep over people. The presale tickets have gone through the roof — their agenda has failed. Miserably.” Nuff said. Boyega stands in his own truth and that’s admirable. 

His thousand-watt smile. Need we say more?

He doesn’t have Garnier- flowing locks, chiseled cheek bones, or a square jaw. However, it’s refreshing to see an actor of African heritage, who defies Western beauty standards, being admired. Boyega has been aptly named by some as a “baby Denzel.” While the similarities are there with Washington — mainly in his broad, electrifying smile — Boyega stands on his own. He’s cute as a button, but can also be suave, as seen in his photoshoot for Man of the World magazine.

He’s already stacking up amazing roles

His next leading role after The Force Awakens is opposite Tom Hanks in the sci-fi drama The Circle, the film adaptation of the 2013 Dave Eggers novel. His mentor is Robert Downey Jr., who helps him navigate a clear path through the intricate jungle of Hollywood. Boyega shows that hard work, talent and bit of luck are the real elements that make a modern Hollywood heartthrob. John Boyega is taking control and he will fly to dazzling heights.

Related reading:

‘Star Wars’ star John Boyega has some words for the haters

Character posters for the new ‘Star Wars’ movie are wow. wow. wow.

[Images courtesy of Walt Disney Studios and Instagram]

Filed Under