The world can thank the fraternity between two British actors for a pivotal part in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s latest film, “The Woman King.” In a heart-to-heart conversation, one of the African English brothers helps the other learn to “prioritize the work,” helping one to be in the head space to accept projects like the upcoming Oscar-contending film, that took Toronto by storm over the weekend.
When actor John Boyega burst on the world scene in the epic “Star Wars: The Force Awakening,” he experienced a great deal of pushback from “far-right Star Wars trolls” who were uncomfortable with the series embracing diversity. His enthusiasm about taking on projects on the big scale was challenged, according to a recent interview with The Daily Beast, until he had a conversation with another actor, Daniel Kaluuya, over the pandemic.
Kaluuya not only gave him advice about maneuvering through the industry, but also an inspiration as a fellow actor from across the pond.
“I invited Daniel Kaluuya to my house because I was thinking about a lot of stuff. We had a sit-down and I told him everything about how I felt,” Boyega shared.
He said his friend was easily able to help him make sense of his role in Hollywood.
“It was so simple, the way he reacted,” Boyega stated. “He was like, ‘Yeah. You need to prioritize the work, and work with people that actually f-ck with you.’ With creative collaborations, we have to find people who are on our wavelength and then we create something good for our audience.”
The two friends are very open about their almost decade-long friendship, often embracing each other with joy when they see each other.
They have even joked about starring in films together.
The University of Greenwich alum said Kaluuya “was one of the voices” that affirmed the critical assessment of his career was “OK.”
And it paid off. During that period of downtime, he was able to take roles that mattered to him and that would allow him the space to portray interesting characters like Lance Corporal Brian Brown-Easley in the new film “Breaking,” and King Ghezo in the upcoming film “The Woman King,” both close to a month a part in their major theatrical release.
Boyega, who has a net worth of $8 million from his roles in the George Lucas series, movies like “Detroit,” “Small Axe,” said he had to “reassess all aspects” of his life (including career), and the pandemic gave him the space to do so.
“I’ve been reassessing all aspects,” he remarked.
“Time with family and friends and putting much more quality and thought and intention into the time I spend with them and including them into aspects of my life that normally I wouldn’t include them in because I’m so busy.”
Boyega continued, “Being alone and wanting more connection, because we were all so separated, and being vulnerable, I realized that this was a balance that I needed to upkeep in order to stay good. And then physically, it was about getting in the gym and proving that I could do it for myself.”
He said he “creatively … spiraled off into different projects,” including the two that many believe set him up to be a stand-up in the upcoming award season, and allowed him to accept who he was as an actor.
“‘Breaking’ certainly happened during the pandemic. In [‘The Woman King’] I play a king who’s protected by some of the most ruthless female warriors out there,” Boyega said. “And for me, it was realizing, ‘Oh, I’m the guy they call when they need versatility in their projects, and I need to lean into that a little bit more.’”
Boyega joins Academy Award-winner Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, and Thusa Mbedu in the upcoming “The Woman King” movie, where he plays King Ghezo, the king of the Dahomey people in what is modern-day Benin and the royal protected subject of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors from the empire that gained much of its wealth through the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The actual King Ghezo celebrated the slave economy, allegedly saying to the British during his reign, “The slave trade has been the ruling principle of my people. It is the source of their glory and wealth. Their songs celebrate their victories and the mother lulls the child to sleep with notes of triumph over an enemy reduced to slavery.”
Boyega, as a man, is strongly against the oppression of Black people, actively speaking against racial injustice and one of the key celebrity personalities openly protesting in Black Lives Matter protests.