Breaking: John Boyega was shocked to learn about challenges faced by veterans

The Star Wars actor plays a former Marine driven to the edge of despair in his new movie

Watch: John Boyega speaks to Yahoo about his new film Breaking

Star Wars actor John Boyega says there was "definitely a learning curve" when preparing to play a veteran in his new movie.

In Breaking (available on VOD from 27 March), he plays Brian Brown-Easley, a former US marine who took the law into his own hands when the Department of Veterans Affairs mislaid his disability payment. He took hostages in a bank to both protest against the error and highlight that he faced destitution as a result. The film is based on true events which took place in 2017.

For the actor, the problems faced by veterans returning home after active service came as “a shock” when he initially read the script. Speaking to Yahoo UK, Boyega said, “Some of the stuff we found out was really, really sad.

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"These individuals who have given so much then come back home and struggle with integrating back into society. That was definitely a learning curve for me.

"And the specific story of Brian was one I hadn’t heard at all, so the shock of it all came at me when I read the script for the first time.”

John Boyega stars in Breaking. (Universal)
John Boyega stars in Breaking. (Universal)

He also recalled how the way veterans responded to the film on its US release made him realise he’d given them a voice. “I saw that when Breaking first came out and there were a few veterans who came up to me, told me they’d seen the film and that they’d had the same experience.

“So, all of a sudden, as somebody who doesn’t come from a military family of any kind, I was exposed to a perspective that I didn’t know about, that I was quite ignorant of. And that’s what’s great about acting.

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"You’re opened up to all these different worlds and different perspectives. It was what we needed to be able to do this movie.”

Telling Brown-Easley’s story meant the actor, along with director Abi Damaris Corbin and co-writer Kwame Kwei-Armah, worked closely with the family. They wanted the story to be treated with integrity but there was one particular thing that his ex-wife, Cassandra, wanted to see in the film. “She mentioned his voice and how we should make sure not to lose how soft spoken he was.

“You read a narrative like this on paper, and you assume that somebody who has the ability to carry out violence will sound like that. In this nuanced story, his voice was the thing for her. And I had to take that into account, even to the extent that Abi, our director had a code where she would say ‘be soft Brian’ and ‘be angry Brian.’ It really helped to have the family involved.”

Director Damaris Corbin was also able to draw on her own family’s history for the film as her father had gone through a similar experience after military service. As Boyega discovered, “This is a constant issue for many who are still going through the system, who still make it back home and are trying to get their lives back on track after serving.”

John Boyega stars in Breaking. (Universal)
John Boyega stars in Breaking. (Universal)

The actor, whose breakthrough role came in 2011 in Attack The Block, was most recently seen alongside Viola Davis in The Woman King and is back on screens again this summer in Netflix’s They Cloned Tyrone.

Breaking also stars The Wire’s Michael K Williams (in what was to be his last role), Nicole Beharie, Jeffrey Donovan, Selenis Leyva and Olivia Washington.

The film won the Best Ensemble Cast award at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it received its world premiere.

Breaking available on Digital Download on 27 March, 2023.