John Boyega: How did John Boyega really feel about wearing a police uniform for Small Axe?

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Small Axe is the BBC’s ground-breaking new anthology series, telling five different stories about black British culture and history and all shot by Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen. Each week, audiences are presented with a completely different tale focusing on the struggles and triumphs by the black community in the UK. This Sunday (November 29) viewers will see John Boyega taking the lead in Red, White and Blue, focusing on Leroy Logan – one of the first black British officers in the Metropolitan Police Service and his struggle to change an inherently racist institution from the inside during the 1980s.

Logan joined the police force after his father was assaulted by two police officers, leaving behind a promising career in the sciences.

Red, White and Blue depicts the discrimination Logan faced both from both within the station among his colleagues and outside as he dealt with the public.

At the heart of the story, Red, White and Blue and Small is about a son’s relationship with his father being put to the ultimate test.

Along with Boyega, Red, White and Blue and Small stars Steve Toussaint, Antonia Thomas, Tyrone Huntley, Nathan Vidal and Jaden Oshenye.

Despite the constant obstacles, Logan’s inspirational story shows how he was determined to make a change and benefit his community through his work.

Ahead of filming on Small Axe, Boyega met with the real-life Logan to get a handle on the man he would be portraying.

Not only did Boyega want to get a sense of Logan but wanted to understand the choices he’d made, going down such a difficult path when an easier option lay before him.

Speaking to media including, actor Boyega reflected on putting on a police uniform amid his own feelings in the wake of George Floyd’s death from police brutality and systemic racism.

He explained: “It’s my job. My job is to portray people who are not me and we understand that fully in our portrayals.

“It excited me to put it on. I was like, ‘I need to see myself as this guy.’

“And putting on a costume any actor will tell you – it brings you just that little bit closer to who you’re going to portray.

“Sometimes you would have rehearsed and you haven’t seen yourself as the person. Once you do, all these different ideas start coming. You just have the aesthetic.”

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Boyega added: “It was quite exciting to get it on. I just wanted to make sure the fit was right.”

His words come after Boyega gave an impassioned speech back in June as part of the Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests in London in the wake of George Floyd’s death caused by police brutality.

Footage of the star delivering a message in the middle of Hyde Park went viral and made headlines across the world as the actor expressed the urgency for action against racism.

Boyega spoke candidly, admitting he might not have a career after speaking out, but he refused to let this deter him.

Despite being filmed prior to the Black Lives Movement and protests of 2020, Small Axe feels timely and very much like an extension of Boyega’s call for change and sharing black stories.

So what does Boyega want global audiences to take away from Red, White and Blue and Small Axe? He said: “It’s not what I want but what I assume is that this is going to be a revelation in education.

“If you think about our representation, especially black British representation. Hopefully less Americans are going to ask us about drinking tea and eating cupcakes. That’s the basic.

“Because to be fair, we have to think about it now. There’s been so much exposure, integration and showing of our culture.”

He went on to say: “For those who are out there and have no perspective on the history here, they’re going to be able to get that.

“After that, they’re going to experience Steve McQueen and the emotions he wants to motivate our people with [through] the work he’s done.”

Small Axe Red, White and Blue will be airing this Sunday on BBC One at 9pm

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