John Boyega (2nd from the left), together with Josh Wiggins, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Sharon Swart (from the left to the right)
Boyega was born in Peckham, London, to Nigerian parents. His first role was that of a leopard in a play at his primary school at the age of five. He later took part in various school productions and attended classes at Theatre Peckham. He was a performing arts student at South Thames College and was active in theatre productions there, including the lead in Othello in 2010.
Boyega trained at the Identity Drama School in Hackney, and appeared in the plays Six Parties at the National Theatre and Category B at the Tricycle Theatre prior to being offered a role in the 2011 film Attack the Block. In September 2011, HBO announced that Boyega had been cast in the boxing drama pilot Da Brick, loosely based on Mike Tyson's life. Boyega was expected to play Donnie, who is released from a juvenile detention centre on his 18th birthday and begins to examine what it means to be a man. The pilot was written by John Ridley, but was not picked up by HBO. Also in 2011, he acted in the film Junkhearts in which he portrayed a drug dealer who found some guns and tried to sell them.
Boyega was chosen by Fionnuala Halligan of Screen International, as one of the "UK Stars of Tomorrow 2011" and appeared alongside only two other actors on the front cover of that magazine in its July 2011 edition.