John Boyega is a name you should get to know. The 19-year-old South London native will make his debut in Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block (in select theaters on Friday, July 29), a tale of aliens who invaded the wrong hood. He stars as Moses a misguided youth who becomes an unlikely hero, when he is forced to look at his negative actions and confront them head on in an effort to save his neighborhood from hostile creatures.
Here, VIBE gets to know the charismatic young actor a little bit better. He elaborates on the strange concept behind the movie, why he digs American accents and how he could possibly follow in Idris Elba’s footsteps. ⎯Starrene Rhett
Talk a little bit about where you’re from and how you ended up in a movie?
I’m from South London in London (laughing). I ended up in the movie from getting a call from my agent. He told me that there was a film about alien invasion in South London. A gang of kids need to step up and become heroes and defend their block. I thought that was an incredibly weird concept but I still went out for the part which was fun. After recall I was at my first job at the time at the [Transport] Theatre. I had a ten minute stage appearance Joe Cornish, [Lara Park] and Nina Gold came to see me in the play. After that it was more recalls then I finally got the part.
So you’re actually from that neighborhood, is it really “the hood?” Tell me a little bit about that.
Yeah it’s the hood [laughs]. But it is a very vibrant and beautiful place full of vibrant people. London is multicultural, in terms of color, culture, loads of people, a really nice nice place.
Have you been acting since you were a kid, is that something you always wanted to do?
I was never MacCaullay Culkin but I was doing some acting in primary school and from there I went up to youth groups. I just ended up in some performances and then I got into a drama school company that trained you two times a week. At the same time you get prompt for work and you get an agent.
What was your preparation for the movie? I’m sure you probably did some of your own stunts, dealing with these alien-looking things probably felt cheesy when you had to do it, so how was it on set?
It wasn’t cheesy at all. It was great! Any running away from fury alien bear looking things is great for me. It looks great on my portfolio. It was really fun to work with them. I watched season four of The Wire for my part. I looked at Marlo’s character and Stinger Bell, Omar and I did a lot of research and asking questions around my state and the professional team, and even being from South London and being part of the craziness that happens. But we did a lot of stunt training and bike training. It was tough but it was smooth and it was good, we really got to bond.
In the movie, Moses was neglected by his uncle. How was your home family life?
I had a mum and dad, they’ve been together for over 20 years. I have two older sisters I have cousins down in London. My dad is a preacher, my mom works with people who are disabled. My family life was pretty normal I grew up on Kenan and Kel, Sister, Sister and Nikelodeon. My life was pretty normal [laughs]. Nothing special.
The reception to the movie Stateside has been really good but something that comes up a lot in conversation is that hearing Brittish people talk like they’re hard is hilarious because usually, the Brittish accents we hear are like…
Yeah, that or cockney [laughs].
[Laughs]. I’m really excited about that. I remember landing in Hollywood and going through Crenshaw and going through my apartment and I remember seeing, I saw London. I basically saw back home, I saw Brixton. It was the exact same thing but [he feigns Cali accent] everybody was talking like this, and I was thinking, “Wow, they don’t know that if you go to London you get that same kind of culture.” So I was excited to know how everyone would react [to the movie]. Like we just talk cruddy and I didn’t know how everyone was gonna take it.
Yeah, we definitely liked that “trust,” and “believe.” That’s your version of how we say, “real talk.”
We say real talk back on London too. We grew up on hip-hop culture and we followed the whole Tupac and Biggie stories. We’ve grown up on that type of culture but we do have our own diverse way too.
Do you have a funny story from set?
Terry Notary, who was the stunt performer, was running after me and he ended up banging his head on a ledge and falling down on the floor. I was cracking up. I thought it was really funny but then when I walked to the corridor, who ended up falling? Me. It was really embarrassing.
I hosted a movie screening. It is really hard to describe but to give people a frame of reference I said The Lost Boys meets Aliens meets Ghostbusters. But I’m curious as to how you would describe it.
I would describe it as Boyz N The Hood with Aliens⎯ it’s an action packed, sci-fi comedy, horror. It ‘s really a great action packed movie.
What else are you working on?
I filmed for a movie called Junkhearts. And I’m doing an episode of Law and Order UK, It will probably be aired on BBC America in a couple of weeks. And I recently signed to CAA in Hollywood. They’ve given me a warm hug and invited me in and I’ve been reading scripts and feature projects.
Do you think you could follow an Idris Elba sort of path?
Yeah. It would be great to make sort of move, that transition. I’m still young. I still have time so it’s about taking things slow and making the right decisions.
For this part of the interview I’m going to ask you some random questions. I’m going to start a sentence and I want you to finish it.
London film is…
One day I want to…
Be the biggest star in the world.
Attack the Block will…
Make loads of people happy.
American accents are…
Speaking of American accents, what’s your favorite type?
[Starts speaking with a twang] I like the Southern. I like the way ya’ll put it down. I like the way ya’ll talk. You talk so laid back. I just think it is so cool [laughing].
[Laughs] In 5 years, I will …
Inspire a lot of people.