John Boyega promises future collaborations with Steve McQueen after filming Small Axe

 (BBC/McQueen Limited/Will Robson-Scott)
(BBC/McQueen Limited/Will Robson-Scott)

Watching John Boyega star as real-life police officer Leroy Logan in Red, White and Blue, part of Steve McQueen’s upcoming anthology series Small Axe, it feels like the beginning of one of the great actor-director partnerships.

Set in the 1980s, the film follows Logan as he decides to swap his stable career in scientific research to join the police force, where he becomes one of few black officers. As well as facing pervasive racism within the Met, he must also deal with his community’s response to his new role - not least the concerns of his father, who had previously been attacked by two policemen.

After spending half a decade fronting the rebooted Star Wars trilogy, it’s a joy to see Boyega, 28, team up with a filmmaker of McQueen’s calibre. Luckily for us, the pair are already planning their next collaboration, Boyega revealed at the press conference for the film.

“Already I’ve been talking to Steve, we’re going to work with each other again and we’re going to do something here at home [in the UK,]” he explained. “So [Small Axe] has inspired more of these kinds of collaborations, which is great.”

<p>Boyega was able to meet with Leroy Logan during production</p>BBC/McQueen Limited/Will Robson-Scott

Boyega was able to meet with Leroy Logan during production

BBC/McQueen Limited/Will Robson-Scott

Boyega revealed that he was able to have many conversations with Logan, allowing him to better understand his motivations for joining the police force, which the actor admitted he initially struggled to comprehend. “It was really about his decision making,” he said. “When your community and your people don’t really support this institution, you decide to join; especially when your father goes through a personal experience in which he is assaulted by two police officers, you still decide to join.

“So I wanted to understand the man behind that decision, the man that’s strong enough to swallow the conflicts and give us the representation [in] the police force [we] needed. And those questions were just based on me being honest saying ‘Bro, if it was me, I probably wouldn’t handle it like this, but why did you make this decision you made?’ Understanding his intention really informed me about making sure the portrayal was accurate.”

<p>Boyega has promised future collaborations with McQueen</p>BBC/McQueen Limited/Will Robson-Scott

Boyega has promised future collaborations with McQueen

BBC/McQueen Limited/Will Robson-Scott

Praising the “energy of collaboration” on McQueen’s set, Boyega said that he was pleased to see so many talented black British people working behind the scenes, adding that he was able to learn more about industry initiatives that they’d helped set up. “I was able to make good connections and hear about things that are going on behind the scenes on Small Axe more than anything I’ve ever worked on,” he said.

“I heard about people coming together, hair and make-up artists who wanted to set up a training strategy for more black people to come on [set] because [white hairdressers] are struggling doing our hair, we need more of that representation. Collaboration is the most important thing.”

Boyega, who gave a moving speech at a Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park earlier this year, stressed the importance of representation off-camera in the film industry, “in terms of producers, executives, more writers to fill these spaces” and “more IP from owners who are black.”

“We need to also see projects that give us the opportunity to collaborate with a mix of cultures, but people are not going to feel comfortable delving into that until we have our own solid representation.

“I May Destroy You is one of those projects that is at the forefront of this kind of endeavour. For me, the reason is because Michaela [Coel] has an ownership which I find really, really inspiring. That’s one thing I want to see more of, because I’m also a producer.

“Especially in terms of black women, we need more perspectives - these roles that are written and cast to represent you, need to come from you.”

Small Axe begins with Mangrove on November 15 at 9pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Red, White and Blue starring John Boyega will air on December 13