Film

We Interviewed John Boyega And Pretty Much Only Asked Him About Robots

He was a good sport about it.

John Boyega

“I’ve always been fascinated by large robots” says actor John Boyega, in an admirably serious tone. ” Giant robots going through cities, destroying things… sometimes not.”

I’m talking to John Boyega in Sydney, ahead of the release of his new film Pacific Rim: Uprising, the sequel to the huge blockbuster Pacific Rim. The actor, best known for his role as Finn the ex-storm trooper in the new Star Wars films is very handsome and charming.

We’re talking about robots because the film is heavy in both quantity and quality of giant robots — or Jaegars, to be more specific — and I keep asking him questions about how cool he thinks they are.

He’s being a very good sport about the extreme robot theme of my questions, and even complimented my pants when I came in, so I’m absolutely in love.

I keep grilling him about the specific types of big clanking boys in the film — there’s a ball robot, one with a big hammer, and a cool ninja style one — but Boyega isn’t as shallow as me. He points out, that when it comes to robots it’s whats INSIDE that counts.

“But for me, with Pacific Rim, having humans inside those robots is way more important,” he tells me, which sounds like a bumper sticker I would buy. “Kinda reminds me of Gundam, the robot is nothing without the human, so that element for me is the one that is quite impressive.”

John Boyega as Finn in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

A Vast Amount Of Cool Robots

Pacific Rim: Uprising is set after the climactic events of the first film, in a world that believes itself safe from the predations of the giant Kaiju monsters who just love to ruin our capital cities (including, specifically, Sydney a whole bunch).

The film is a fast dissolving bath-bomb of massive robot on monster fight scenes, some truly beautiful panoramas of giant robots, and above all, inspiring speeches about saving the world.

If you’re keen for the same kind of fun and charm as the original film, then Uprising certainly delivers — and what’s more, the film shakes up the established Jaeger VS Kaiju dynamic, and adds in some really cool Jaeger on Jaegar fighting action. It might be the best part of the entire film.

“Jaegar on Jaegar fights” enthuses Boyega. “That’s what the fans were talking about a lot after the first Pacific Rim. So, that’s something everyone had to consider, what did the fans want to see in terms of this universe that would be quite new to the story.”

Science Fiction Film GIF by Pacific Rim Uprising - Find & Share on GIPHY

John Boyega plays Jake Pentecost, an ace Jaegar pilot and bad boy who needs to step up to live up to his father’s rather forbidding reputation. Considering that Jake’s father, Stacker Pentecost — played by Idris Elba in the previous film — literally blew himself up to help save the world, there’s obviously a lot of pressure. Boyega got to play both a naughty party boy and an action hero, and it looked like an insanely cool role to inhabit.

“Really cool role to play,” he agrees. “The nonchalant, dismissive attitude in the beginning kind of all just melts away when you realise that this is a rude boy that really wants to be a good man and he wants to step up and be as good as his father was, there’s just that detachment and past issues that he hasn’t been able to get over.”

It seems that while Boyega is certainly keen for big robots and fun action, part of that love comes from a deeper place.

Establishing His Nerd Credentials

I point out that the majority of John Boyega’s film credits are just massively cool roles that seem designed to make nerds and plucky children absolutely lose their shit.

There are few characters with larger nerd cred than a lead role in a Star Wars film, let alone a defecting stormtrooper who gets to use a lightsaber and battle Gwendolyn Christie with an electric club. I have a particular soft spot for Boyega’s first film role in the brilliant Attack the Block, in which he battles aliens in a housing commission building in London.

I asked him if he’s deliberately tracking down all the coolest roles in Hollywood, but once again Boyega has a deeper motive for things.

“It’s always gotta be cool, but the story is the big thing for me, and the type of character to play. For me, I’ve done three sci-fi roles so far and if I compare Moses, Jake and Finn, I know that they just don’t have much similarity, they’re so distinctly different.”

He gives a big mock smile: “To be able to do that, it makes an actor feel happy and artistic.”

However, when pushed about just how much he enjoys these big sci-fi roles, he accedes that his “nerd DNA is just expanding every day, man.”

John Boyega Film GIF by Pacific Rim Uprising - Find & Share on GIPHY

Will There Be Giant Robots In the Future For Boyega?

Boyega confirms to me that there’s a good chance we’ll be getting a third Pacific Rim film, or perhaps even a Pacific Rim extended universe (I can dream), but as of yet there’s no specifics.

“That’s the goal, that’s the vision, to expand the universe and to tonally always advance the way which we approach the story, to improve the characters. To be given that opportunity again would be sweet.”

I asked if that means he’ll be back as Pentecost.

“Oh yeah,” he grins. “Bring him back and maybe introduce some new Jaegars” he says, absolutely humouring my nerdery for big metal men.

Patrick Lenton is an author and staff writer at Junkee. He tweets @Patrick Lenton.