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Before The Force Awakens thrust a 23-year-old John Boyega into the spotlight—one that would prove at times searing, at times empowering—Boyega ate waffles with Robert Downey Jr.
The point of the waffle meeting: to learn how to be famous. Or, rather, how to be famous without stumbling along the way—a rocky route Downy Jr. knew all too well. Boyega asked his agent to set it up. Downey Jr. obliged. And then, over waffles, the man who turned years of legal setbacks into maybe the most profitable career in Hollywood gave Boyega some advice.
In his September cover interview, Boyega told Men’s Health what RDJ had to say.
“'They’re not going to know what to do with you when you come into the industry; they’re going to be kind of like, ‘Oh, let’s just make him well spoken and nice,’” Boyega remembers.
Boyega anticipated then having to carve out something more individual than just “well spoken, nice.”
“That’s kind of the filter,” he says. “You’re going to go through some turbulence. You’re going to try to find who you are within this. It might be rocky, but you’ll come out the end with a solid identity. That’s literally what happened to me.”
That turbulence included years in which Boyega said he overworked himself, as well as a torrent of racism over his casting as a stormtrooper in The Force Awakens.
Boyega says he learned important mental lessons, including surrounding himself with friends and family:
“You choose your circle in which you can accept how you express yourself. Once you feel that acceptance, they can help you, help motivate you. That’s your safe place as a celebrity. So you can actually complain. I still want to say that shit. Like, this is petty, but I want to tell my sisters, ‘Oh, this is just how I feel.’ And they’re going to be like, ‘This is petty, but yeah, I hear you.’ Whereas in the world it’s going to be like, ‘You’re a fucking millionaire, you idiot. You know what I had to do this morning, and you’re complaining about that?’ Let me just chill and complain to the people that understand that I’m not trying to be evil. It’s just today, I’m sad. I’m experiencing [this phase of my career] as a more balanced person who is willing to improve.”
So maybe a little bit of “well-spoken and nice.” But also, a whole lot more.
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