John Boyega On 'Detroit' Intensity: 'Every Take Was Different and Unique and Dynamic and Painful'

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

John Boyega helps lead the freedom-fighting Resistance in the far, far away galaxy of Star Wars, but back here on terra firma, he knows it’s much harder to be a hero. That’s certainly the case in Kathryn Bigelow‘s new drama, Detroit, a dramatic depiction of the Algiers Motel incident that occurred during the riots that roiled the Motor City in 1967. Boyega plays Melvin Dismukes, a security guard who witnesses a trio of police officers physically and emotionally terrorize a group of African-American men, and two white women, who they suspect of firing a gun at law enforcement. Even as the tension within the Algiers mounts, and the officers’ behavior grows more and more violent, Dismukes remains uncertain how to act. “We all like to claim hero when we’re not in the situation, [but] the natural instinct is to survive,” Boyega tells Yahoo Movies. “He’s the silent watcher, unfortunately. And for me as an actor, I totally understood it. This is something he didn’t prepare himself for.” (Watch our interview above.)

Taking up roughly an hour of Detroit‘s 143-minute runtime, the Algiers Motel sequence is an often painful viewing experience that will absolutely spark conversations amongst audiences about police brutality and the past and present state of race relations in America. And Boyega says it was equally intense material to film. At the same time, that intensity also made it exciting to be a part of it as a performer. “It was a gold mine of talent,” he says. “Every take was different and unique. Once the cameras stopped rolling, we went up to each other and asked if everyone was okay. It was a solemn kind of moment.”

‘Detroit’: Watch a trailer:

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