John Boyega knows the comparisons. It had to be – the actor is active on social media as his own Breaking Director Abi Damaris Corbin points out that at one point it even trended on Twitter: “John is Denzel.”
As in the 30-year-old Star Wars alum’s muted performance in the true-life dramatic thriller Breaking reminds people of Academy Award-winning living legend Denzel Washington (especially Washington’s performance in the 2002 film with a similar theme John Q). Boyega stars as Brian Brown Easley, an ex-Marine who took bank tellers hostage and threatened to blow up the building out of frustration over withheld veterans’ disability payments.
“I’m not involved in that conversation, man,” Boyega told Yahoo Entertainment when asked what he thought Denzelian’s work would be called. “If that’s what they see, then that’s a blessing. Denzel is one of the best actors in the industry. And I’m just starting out. So for me, I don’t have the time or the streaks to be able to work on myself in such a conversation.
“I will certainly thank God for such an opportunity.”
His co-star Nicole Beharie (Miss Judenth) was impressed by what he saw on set: “On the first day, I was blown away by the work that Giannis did and all the energy,” he says. “It made my job easier.”
Boyega was an easy choice for Corbin and her co-writer/executive producer Kwame Kwei-Armah. “It’s very easy to pat yourself on the back and say, ‘Yeah, yeah, we knew it was John and John was going to be great,’ but I didn’t know he was going to be this good,” says Kwei-Armah.
Corbin first discovered Easley’s story in 2018 by Aaron Gell Work & Purpose article “They shouldn’t have killed him.”
“It caught up with me, it pierced my soul,” he says. “My dad is a veteran, so I could understand what he went through [Department of] Veterans Affairs is so much better through Brian’s eyes.”
Breaking it comes just weeks after President Joe Biden signed the PACT Act, which aims to improve access to health care for veterans exposed to toxic substances and burns during military service. But not before the act became an issue with Republicans being accused of playing politics with the act after originally voting against it. Dozens of veterans camped outside the Capitol until he finally passed, with former Daily show host Jon Stewart becomes their most vocal supporter.
“The timing is amazing,” says Beharie. “And I really hope it works.”
“It should have an effect and certainly a conversation,” adds Boyega.
It is deeply personal for Corbyn.
“My dad waited in the same lines for a long time, the same lines that the veterans were in front of the White House,” he says. “They’re sitting there with their candles, just praying that there will be a breakthrough, that there will be an opening, that the red tape will go away and that the hearts of the matter and the words will match the deeds. I am hopeful that watching our film will allow people to hear these calls.”
-Video produced by Kyle Moss and edited by Jimmie Rhee
Breaking opens in theaters Friday.
Watch the trailer: