EXCLUSIVE: John Boyega on starring in and producing ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’

The film knocked 'Black Panther' from the No.1 spot at the box office.

[griojw id=”I24PftrK” playerid=”GqX43ZoG”]

After five weeks of holding the No.1 spot at the box office, Black Panther was ousted by another highly-anticipated film over the weekend — Pacific Rim Uprising.

Aside from starring in the follow up of the 2013 hit, Pacific Rim which starred fellow British import, Idris Elba; John Boyega also served as a producer on the film.

“It was definitely a challenge going into it knowing that I had only produced lightly on projects that weren’t SAG but at the same time I felt up to it and I thought it was time for me to start exploring different ways of being artistic and being part of that process. Once I found my footing it was great,” he told TheGrio in an exclusive interview.

Skills on both sides of the camera

This isn’t Boyega’s first foray into production. In fact, he’s the CEO of his own company, Upper Room Productions.

“I founded my company in 2015 and I traveled to LA to pitch to several different studios and companies to give them a brief introduction to who we are and how they could be involved. As a company, there is a long term plan,” he explains. “As the CEO, I’m a big part of moving that in the right direction. I have always been really passionate about being behind the camera as well as in front of it. It has always been an interesting thing to me.”

EXCLUSIVE: John Boyega on Black Brits taking over and how faith fuels his success

One of the meetings he took on that trip was with Mary Parent and Cale Boyter at Legendary, and they pitched him the idea of starring in the Pacific Rim sequel.

“In my previous films, I was just an actor. Now I’d be a producer as well, and I loved the challenge of having to live up to that form of leadership, co-producing alongside a studio that I admire, acting in a fantastic role, and working with Steven—someone I’ve wanted to work with after his incredible work on Spartacus and Daredevil,” he explains.

“I said ‘yes, of course’ and we went into the room next door where they had this incredible concept art on display, depicting me in this incredibly designed suit,” he continues. “It was a fully developed pitch with Cale showing me all the amazing new elements for the film, featuring me.”

READ MORE: After Oscar win, Kobe Bryant wants to advocate for diversity in Hollywood 

In the film, Boyega, who is most recently coming off turns in Detroit and Star Wars: The Last Jedi plays the rebellious Jake Pentecost, a once-promising pilot of the Jaegar megamachines whose legendary father gave his life to secure humanity’s victory against the monstrous “Kaiju.” Jake has since abandoned his training only to become caught up in a criminal underworld. When an unstoppable threat is unleashed to tear through our cities and bring the world to its knees, he is given one last chance to live up to his father’s legacy by his estranged sister, Mako More (played by Rinko Kikuchi) who is leading a brave new generation of pilots that have grown up in the shadow of war. As they seek justice for the fallen, their only hope is to unite in a global uprising against the force of extinction.

Getting in shape

When it came time to prepare for his starring role in the high-energy flick, Boyega admits he had his work cut out for him.

“It was the most physical role I have ever done. There’s a lot of jumping, running and fighting and of course the combat we had is very complicated at times but we got through it,” he says. “I had two very good stunt men, one who was actually Black Panther in Civil War. They worked with me and got my body right, got me in shape, got me moving and it was fantastic.”

READ MORE: Watch Black Panther actor Winston Duke surprise boy from M’baku challenge

Fans can expect to see Boyega’s talent shine through and he drew on his own life experiences to inform the role.

“Jake’s personality is nuanced and conflicted. He grew up in the shadow of his father, Stacker, and he’s battled with living up to the family name. He had aspirations to be a Jaeger pilot, and began training at the PPDC (Pan Pacific Defense Corps) Academy, but they were halted after a confrontation with Stacker led him to rebel and follow a dangerous path. What follows that is his journey to becoming a hero,” says the actor.

“That’s something that I decided to create based on how I saw myself when I was 16 and 17—a cocky kid with a little bit of mismanagement.”

Pacific Rim Uprising is currently playing in theaters.