John Boyega talks landing the role of Finn ‘after seven months of extreme auditioning’

Finn Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Image via Lucasfilm

A new Star Wars book titled The Galaxy’s Greatest Heroes goes in-depth into the process of bringing the characters of the Skywalker Saga to life. As one of the main players in Disney’s sequel trilogy, John Boyega‘s Finn is one such character, and the British actor has a lot of insight into how the stormtrooper-turned-rebel found his footing in the new era.

Boyega actually had a solid opening with The Force Awakens and introduced a new dynamic to the Star Wars ensemble. But fan expectations quickly turned sour with the character’s subplot in The Last Jedi. Even passionate loyalists who support Rian Johnson’s controversial middle act with every breath sometimes admit that Finn’s storyline wasn’t exactly exceptional in that film. By J.J. Abrams’ The Rise of Skywalker, Finn completely lost his depth and turned into just another tool that the writers shaped into their makeshift narrative.

Still, even the Star Wars name is enough to turn you into an icon, so it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that many aspiring actors look up to Boyega. In this excerpt from the new book, which you can read below, the performer breaks down the process of getting the role and bringing it to life.

“I got a call about the auditions for Star Wars and my agent told me that J.J. Abrams wanted to meet with me and put me on tape for the role. I didn’t know what part I was going up for and I hadn’t read the script, so I took a train into central London, met J.J., spoke about the role, and then did the scenes. It was two scenes; I practiced it a few times, and then we put it on tape. It was quite the experience because it was nerve-wracking knowing that it was Star Wars, but not knowing the specifics of the part. After that it was recall after recall, then a screen test with Chewbacca came, which was exciting. Then, I got the call to say that I had got the part, and that was after seven months of extreme auditioning!

“From the get-go, they specified that it was a male leading role. Star Wars is an ensemble cast, so we have lots of leads that create the narrative, and I didn’t know that Finn was so central to the story. I only found that out halfway through the audition process when J.J. said, ‘You’re the guy. You know that, right?’ I was like, ‘Ahh! Okay, it’s time to get the acting chops together and do something!'”

Boyega further adds:

“Prior to getting the part, I had been at a premiere for another film I had done, and my mind was definitely more fixated on whether I’d receive the part or not. I remember being on the red carpet and it had leaked that I was up for the Star Wars part. So, there were various media outlets asking if I was up for Star Wars. I said, ‘I haven’t heard anything, but if J.J. Abrams wants me to be in Star Wars, that would be amazing.’ The next day, I got an email from J.J. asking where I was. I told him I was at home and he asked if I could get to a little café in Mayfair, London. I hopped in a cab, drove down, and saw J.J. in the café by himself, drinking a cup of tea. We had a brief conversation and he asked me whether I was ready. He asked me if would be interested in working out and training, both as an actor and physically. He asked me if I realized how big the responsibility would be. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll be fine. I’ll do anything.’ Then, he told me I was the new star in Star Wars.

“Everything stopped. I noticed everything. I noticed how many sugar cubes were in this little cup on the table. All the time it was going through my head, he just said I’m the new star in Star Wars. I was willing myself to breathe. Then J.J. raised a cup of water and said, ‘Congratulations.’ I was ecstatic. It was probably the happiest day of my life. I walked all around London just in a dreamland. This felt different. I’ve received calls for roles that I fought for before, but this not only felt like a triumph for me as an actor, but a day that felt like I was a part of history and that just made me really, really happy.”

That’s certainly quite the story. I mean, we can only imagine what it must’ve been like for the actor in those first couple of weeks, never mind the pressure of portraying a main character in a franchise as big and beloved as Star Wars for nearly five years.