John Boyega talks Pacific Rim Uprising from the set of the sequel
John Boyega is no stranger to sci-fi. Having stepped into a galaxy far, far away as Finn in the Star Wars franchise and battled aliens as Moses in Attack the Block, the actor now finds himself in another other-worldly situation on the big screen: Piloting a Jaeger and fighting Kaiju in Pacific Rim Uprising. While speaking to the actor on the set of the upcoming sequel, Boyega recalled the first time he saw a photo of the first movie as it was coming out.
“In 2013, I was on the bus 171 in London, coming back from an audition,” he tells us on the Sydney set of the film. “I opened up the Evening Standard, and I saw Idris in full suit with his helmet, with the squint. At the time, I had no clue who Del Toro was, no clue who Idris was significantly but I’d seen him on ‘The Wire.’ And seeing that (promo pic) for me, was just, ‘Oh, this is so dope! I hope they have other roles.’ But then ‘Star Wars’ happened, and that distracted me, and I never imagined that ‘Pacific Rim 2’ would come.”
Fittingly enough, Boyega takes on the role of Jake Pentecost, the son of Idris Elba‘s Stacker Pentecost from the first film. Elba’s character didn’t make it out of the first film alive, but managed to cancel the apocalypse thanks to his tireless work.
“I think naturally, when I watched ‘Pacific Rim 1,’ he was for me the standout character,” Boyega said of his on-screen father. “You just felt a sense of history from him, a leadership. How did this guy get to this position? How did this guy get to this position in this whole organization? Why is he so stern? Why is he so protective over Mako? He has a heart as well. He’s a grown leader. For me, it’s about embodying that.”
At the time of our interview, they had only briefly spoken about playing an on-screen family but a reunion would no doubt come at one point for the pair.
“He sent a nice message of congratulations,” Boyega said. “I’m going to give him an update in a few days, and even see if he could come to set and visit. I think his performance set the pace for a character like this to ever exist. So I’ll talk to him some more later, but so far it’s just been congratulations.”
Fans may balk at this retcon of a son that was never mentioned in the first film now being the center point of the sequel, but the reasoning is baked into the story of Pacific Rim Uprising: Jake Pentecost was the black sheep of the family beforehand.
“He grew up in the dark period of the first movie,” Boyega says. “He kind of chose a different path from being a Jaeger pilot, and decided to go into criminal activity, the exchange of Jaegers and other illegal stuff. He became like a stealer and a rogue…”
Jake’s life of crime will quickly come to an end as the sequel begins though and as one key relationship unfolds on screen in front of us: Him seeing his long lost adoptive sister, Mako Mori (played once again by Rinko Kikuchi in the sequel).
“They would have played together, trained together,” Boyega says of the pair’s strained relationship. “And they were good friends, but it seems Jake has struggled with acceptance. That she was dad’s favorite, and dad’s Golden Girl, and she achieved what Jake unfortunately couldn’t. You meet them at a point where there’s a blatant difference… He doesn’t really like her at first (when they reunite). It’s a bit of a harsh thing. But they love each other at the end of the day, and you see that in this film.”
Another key relationship in the film that we will see Jake in is with newcomer Cailee Spaeny as Amara. The pair stumble upon each other in the wasteland that was once Santa Monica as Jake looks for Jaeger scraps to sell on the black market, and Amara looks for pieces to help her build her own fighting robot.
“Amara and Jake’s relationship starts off so simple, and then becomes complex because they’re both thrown into this extraordinary circumstance at the same time,” Boyega said. “Jake starts to see a young him in her. He helps her as she journeys through being a cadet. He sees the journey that he did in the past, within her. Through that, they form a bond and a relationship. It’s pretty cool. They’re like brother and sister. She has her moments of having her way; Jake has his moments of having his way. They bicker at times. When they work together… it’s magical.”
In the film, Jake and Amara will both take up a spot in the Pan Pacific Defense Corps. Jake, like his father Stacker, gets to both lead cadets and pilot a Jaeger. Though Stacker’s first Jaeger was a Mark-1 Jaeger by the name of Coyote Tango (who appeared on screen for just seconds in Pacific Rim), Jake gets to pilot none other than the new face of the franchise: The Mark-6 Gypsy Avenger.
“She’s a beauty!” Boyega says of his new Jaeger. “They’re slicker. They’re faster. They have new moves… What’s great about her is that you get to embody the characters also who are inside the Jaegers. You get to really see the pilots mesh with the robot. It’s kind of like an emotional connection with a being… I feel like ‘Pacific Rim’ fans will be like, ‘That’s the changes we would have made,’ and then also, new fans will be like, ‘That’s dope.'”