A year ago, John Boyega was a name that nobody knew. And, okay, it’s probably still a name that a lot of people aren’t familiar with. But if the hype he’s been getting from film critics for his starring role in this summer’s Attack the Block is any indication, Boyega won’t be able to enjoy anonymity for very much longer. Attack the Block director Joe Cornish found Boyega performing in a small stage show in London and cast him in his hoods versus aliens monster movie based on that. One to take his work seriously, first-time film actor Boyega then took to studying season 4 of The Wire to get a handle on how to approach playing an urban youth, and brought reality to the character of Moses, in a performance that felt genuine and raw even when there was tons of alien monster insanity going on around it.
Suddenly, it looks like the mess of film critics who have been pimping for Attack the Block all summer aren’t the only ones who noticed the work Boyega put in, because THR is reporting that Spike Lee has taken notice of the young actor and cast him as the lead of his HBO dramatic series Da Brick.
Da Brick is about a young man from Newark, New Jersey (Brick City) who, upon being released from juvenile detention on his 18thbirthday, must traverse the harsh environment of his hometown and learn what it takes to be a man, with a little bit of boxing thrown in for good measure. Boyega will star as this young man, Donnie, and joining him will be NCIS’s Milauna Jemai as his mother, and The Wire’s Julito McCullum and Gossip Girl’s Kamahl Naiqui Palmeras his two best friends that he has an angel/devil on his shoulder relationship with. McCullum’s character is a bad influence who is going bad places, but Donnie doesn’t want to leave him behind, and Palmer’s character acts as the moral center of the trio.
Da Brick has a laundry list of people producing in some capacity, but perhaps the most interesting name involved in its development is that of former boxing world champion Mike Tyson. Apparently Donnie’s story is largely based off of Tyson’s real life childhood and largely reflects what his upbringing was like.
Helping Tyson and Lee bring this story to life as well will be Entourage creator Doug Ellin and his producing partner Jim Lefkowitz, who did something similar by basing Entourage largely off the real life experiences of Mark Wahlberg. Given Boyega’s standout performance in Attack the Block, the current prevalence of gritty, urban fight stories sweeping over Hollywood, and Lee paired up with the urban youth material that seems to most often inspire his best work; this could be one to watch.