20 legendary Black science fiction actors who rocked the genre

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John Boyega

For an embarrassingly long time, Billy Dee Williams was the only Black actor to take on a major on-screen role in the Star Wars film franchise. Even then, while he was certainly a pivotal character, Lando Calrissian didn’t get nearly as much screen time as the other actors. Even we can’t fully admit that he was a lead in the original trilogy, though he’s thankfully gotten more attention in various Star Wars shows, games, and books.

With the most recent trilogy of films, however, we finally have a big, juicy lead role filled by a Black actor. In general, the latest Star Wars movies have done a much better job casting actors of color, but for now, let’s concentrate on our favorite stormtrooper-turned-hero: Finn.

Finn, played by John Boyega, hasn’t had much of a good start in life. He was essentially stolen from his family at a young age and trained to be a faceless, nameless soldier for the First Order. And we really do mean nameless. Finn was originally designated “FN-2187.” Resistance pilot Poe Dameron effectively renames him as “Finn,” since his first appellation doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Boyega brings a wonderful energy to the role, which calls for a lot of complex emotional processing, given his turbulent past and present. Flinging yourself from the First Order to the Resistance in quick succession will do that, after all.

As it turns out, Boyega is no stranger to the science fiction genre. He starred the British film Attack the Block, released in 2011. This was Boyega’s first film role, though it’s hard to believe, given his outstanding performance as Moses, the leader of a teenage street gang. Moses and his crew start out as villains, but quickly come to the defense of their community when vicious alien predators descend upon their block.