Idrissa Akuna "Idris" Elba is a British actor, producer, singer, rapper, and DJ. He is best known for his portrayal of drug lord and aspiring businessman Russell "Stringer" Bell in the HBO series The Wire, Detective John Luther in the BBC One series Luther, and Nelson Mandela in the biographical film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Elba has been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film, winning one for Best Actor, as well as earning four Primetime Emmy Award nominations. Elba has appeared in films such as American Gangster, Takers, Thor, Prometheus, Pacific Rim, and Thor: The Dark World. In addition to his acting work, he is a DJ under the moniker DJ Big Driis and a hip-hop soul musician.
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I'm an actor, I've been an actor for a long time, I've come from England, I like to deejay, and that's it. I'm in this film, No Good Deed, and it's number one in America at the moment, and I'm really proud of that.
Victoria from reddit's assisting me today.
Edit: Well, I wanna say - thank you so much for all your questions. Actually, I was pretty nervous doing the "ask me anything" but you guys were great and asked me some really intelligent questions. And actually you reminded me of a few things that happened over my life, so I thank you for that. If you're free this weekend, and haven't seen it yet, go see No Good Deed. It's a thrill ride, we had a lot of fun making and hope you enjoy it. If you have seen it, and want to see it again, no problem. I'm @IdrisElba on Twitter and on Instagram I've got two - @7Dub and @IdrisElba.
If it were offered to you, would you be the next James Bond?
Yes, if it was offered to me, absolutely.
Idris, I am a HUGE fan of your work as Stringer Bell in The Wire. How long did it take you to perfect your “American” accent? My world was turned upside down when I found out that you were an Englishman and that is not your natural accent.
The truth is I had been living in America by 3-4 years by the time I got The Wire, so my ear is pretty good at picking up accents and I'm a bit of a mimic, so it was a combination of living in the country and picking up an East Coast accent for Stringer. So the short answer is: it took me 4 years, but in honesty I cheated because I was living in America.
I read a recent interview with Dominic West where he stated that David Simon was considering making a prequel for The Wire. The premise would be showing Avon and Stringer's rise to power, taking over the towers from a gangster played by Samuel L Jackson.
On behalf of all fans of The Wire, can you please lobby David Simon to ensure this happens?
Edit: link to the interview: http://uproxx.com/tv/2014/09/david-simon-wanted-a-prequel-to-the-wire-but-there-was-just-one-problem/
Ahahaha. Well, that's absolute news to me, I haven't heard of it before. It sounds quite incredible. And...yeah, yeah I will ask him.
Are we cancelling the Apocalypse today?
Uh...haven't you heard? I cancelled it once. When I cancel it, it stays cancelled.
You seem to switch from playing good guys to playing bad guys with relative ease. Do you prefer playing the hero, or the villain?
I find villains way more compellin' to unearth their psyche. Writers love writing for villains because they can get a lot more off their chest, and it just means a lot more stuff for the actor to do. But good guys are also a challenge, because if you don't get the balance between being real and being, you know, a stereotypically good guy, your character can come across as corny. So each has its challenges, but I think being a bad guy has more.
How would you prefer fans to approach you when they see you in public?
Ehmm- I really like it when fans just say "Hey man, I'm just - nice to meet you, you know. this is who I am" a lot of fans don't say hello, or just forget the ordinary common niceties. They just go straight to "can I take a picture" and sometimes that's, it's nice to be spoken to, not spoken at.
on the Office your character said they were aware of the effect they had on women, is that true of you in real life?
Uh - no.
Mr. Elba, with the recent announcement that you are lending your voice as Shere Khan in Jon Favreau's 'The Jungle Book'... I have to ask:
What is your favorite classic animated Disney movie?
What is my favourite classic animated movie...dudududu... what is my favourite... that's a good question. At the risk of sounding corny, I think it is The Jungle Book. And it's not animated, but it fits in that world, Mary Poppins. I loved Mary Poppins. Classic, man, just classic! The songs, the animation, amazin'.
I love the relationship between Luther and Alice. You start off trying to bring her to justice for murder and somewhere along the way she becomes one of the only people Luther truly trusts. The chemistry between you and Ms. Wilson is incredible and makes me want to root for a romantic future. Where do you imagine these character in 10 years? Also, are there any differences between working on an American show (The Office, The Wire) vs a British show (Luther)?
I honestly am not sure where they would be in 10 years. I think Luther would probably be professor of criminology, and Alice will be in jail. But that's just guessing, I dunno.
I never know the real differences, apart from cultural differences. The film crews are pretty much the same around the world, except for the culture. The process is really the same. The Office was a unique experience, because I don't get to do comedy much, and Steve Carrell and the guys were so funny. Such a different way of working, because we were joking and pissing around all the time. However, somehow we managed to pull together a few episodes. I enjoyed it, but it's not really different than shooting anything else.
Mr. Elba, I have a co-worker who would just lose it if you said hello to her. Her name is Toni, could you just send a message to her or just say hello to her on here?
Hello Toni. Please don't lose it!
Are there any more plans for more episodes of Luther? I am dying for some more.
We are in talks at the moment to figure out a way to bring more Luther back to the TV, but the focus is to try and make a film from it.
Hello, Mr Elba. Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA. I've really enjoyed your work. What was your experience working on RocknRolla? When will you guys do the sequel? Thanks again and best of luck in your future endeavors.
Rocknrolla was wicked. It was a lot of laughs. All the actors - me and Gerry Butler became really good friends from that film, and Tom Hardy. Guy Ritchie is a genius, and it was just like making a film with your college mates.
I know you already play Heimdall, but would you like to be the leading role in a superhero movie? If so, which superhero would you like to play?
I wanna play... I thought it'd be really cool to play Hancock.
Yeah, I would love to play sort of a ... you know, sort of that human being that actually has superhero powers, like Hancock and like Luke Cage.
Hey Mr Elba!
Big fan! Love Luther and Prometheus! And i'm a secret fan of Ghost Rider...
As you may know, the internets has a love affair with Nic Cage....
Do you have any funny stories from the set of Ghost Rider?
Yeah - Nic Cage came back one day on set, and he came down to set and he looked a little bit tired, a little bit - kind of like he'd ben up all night. So I was like "hey Nic man, how you doing man" and he said "i'm alright' and I said "You seem a little spoked out" and he said "Yeah man, I went up to Dracula's castle...the ruins up in the mountains, and I stayed the night" and i said "What?! Why|?" and he said "I just had to channel the energy, and it was pretty spooky up there." We were shooting in Romania, Transylvania, and he just went up there to spend the night, as you do.
And then he walked away.
How are you sooo cool???????
Hahahahahaa! Oh man, how do you answer that? am I really cool? Thank you for saying that. My dad was cool, man. My dad was cool.
Are you currently having a 40-degree day?
Actually, I think it's sort of like ... yeah, I'm having a 40 degree, yes. In short, yes, I'm having a 40 degree week-end.
Idris, first off thank you for taking the time to do this AMA. You're probably going to break reddit today.
So these last few years you've emerged in some truly epic roles in films like Pacific Rim and Thor. What happened that made filmmakers realize your potential for badassness?
Hahhaaha. Hahaha. I think that, you know, I'd like to be a director one day, and I think that's given to entice me to one actor or another is his range. I enjoy watching an actor transform themselves each time. People like Daniel Day-Lewis, Fassbender, Denzel, they reinvent themselves, and I think what's happened during my career in the last 3 years is that I've done so many types of roles, and I think directors are going "Hey man, this guy has range" (hopefully). So I think that's the answer, I think.
Idris, a friend just showed me the music video "Lover of the Light." It was phenominal. I wanna thank you for your works, and for the stuff that you do. How much fun did you have doing that?
Yeah, that was one of the pinnacles of my career, it was the first time I ever directed myself in a film. And I loved it. We had a really small crew, not much of a budget, and we all drove down to this beautiful part of the world in Wales, and we stayed in this little B&B. And we shot this video in the hills and on the beach. It's a very - not weird - story, a story of a blind man that decides to run as fast as he can without seeing where he was going. Thank you for asking me that one, because that is one of my proudest pieces of work.
Hey Idris! I’ve been a huge fan for a long, long time. I’ve got two-ish questions for you.
1-BBC America recently started playing your show “King Of Speed” and I dig it quite a bit. However, one thing did stand out to me: your first episode showed you in Baltimore exploring the city and the underground racing scene, and yet there was no mention of your work in The Wire whatsoever. Was that an intentional thing dropped for broadcast (or maybe just lopped off in the American import version)? On the subject, what’s it like going back to Baltimore again in the ten years since the end of The Wire, and do you have any really fond memories of the city while you were shooting back then?
2- I know that you’re a Gooner and I was wondering how long you’ve been a fan and what drew you to Arsenal as a club. I, myself, am a City fan so I hope we can stay being pals and such regardless. If not, then we can settle the score over FIFA 15 or something.
Thanks for doing this AMA, and here’s hoping for that Luther movie!
1) I don't know why we didn't really mention The Wire. I guess, although I was in The Wire, I didn't think it was quite relevant to the underground scene specifically for cars and motor racing, but the truth is I don't know why we didn't mention The Wire. I love Baltimore, I had 3 great years there, it was sort of a really, the beginning of my American career. I haven't been back there for quite a while, but anytime I go there, I get a lot of love, a lot of people miss the show and give me a lot of, you know, support for my career, Baltimore is a great place.
2) I've been a fan of Arsenal since I was about... fifteen, I guess? I lived really close to West Ham Football Grounds, but West Ham... they had really violent fans that didn't like black people. So I went to Arsenal, who had a great time, and didn't have racist fans at that time. And...I'm sad that you're a city fan, sorry mate, but you honestly don't want to touch it with Fifa. I'm a don.
What is the best/funniest practical joke you have seen happen on the set?
Uhmm.... bumdudmdumdumdumdumbumpa. Funniest practical joke on a set? Let me think about this... I think I was doin', a long time ago, I was doing Ultraviolet, and there's a scene in a morgue, and I remember there was a few extras playing the dead people but somehow we weren't told that, we thought they were dummies, and I think one of them sprung up on us, and I shit my pants, not gonna lie, because I thought it was a dummy ! But it was a real life person.
Did it take long to get into the Heimdall's armor? Was it cosy inside?
Yes, it took very long. And yes, it was super-cozy. Um..I hate it! OH don't say it. Wait! Do say it!
Where's Waldo, String?
Don't you mean Wallace?
Do they have high school reunions in England? If so, have you been to any of yours since your career took off?
Well, firstly, they call them secondary school in England. And I haven't been to a secondary school reunion. However, some of my friends that i still kick it with now were at my secondary school, so whenever we get together, it's a bit like a reunion.
What do you think of Prometheus? I personally like it very much!
I think it's an incredible film. I think that the finished product was, you know, full of all the promises it had promised. I suspect the story was a little dense in places for some members of the audience, but didn't let them take away from its sort of ambition and achievement. Ridley Scott is an incredible director.
Who gave you permission to be so attractive? Also, what's your favorite color?
My mum and dad. You have to ask my mum and dad about the first question, because I took their genes and became me. But thanks for the compliment. My favourite colour is green.
What's your favorite animal?
My favourite animal is a dog. I'm allergic to dogs, but I love dogs. But my second favourite animal is a lion.
How quickly can we get you signed on to play Luke Cage for the Netflix series?
Uh, I think there's an actor already signed on for it, fortunately or unfortunately.
What prompted you to direct and star in Mumford and Sons song, Lover of the light? You did a great job, by the way.
Well, Mumford and Sons asked me to be in a video for them. They didn't want to be in the video, they were all big fans of The Wire, and I said "yes but only if I can direct it" - they huddled together, shook their heads, and said "Okay then." and the rest is history.
How was it to become a part of Alien mythology?
Yeah, it was kind of like being allowed into a club that you'd been standing outside of for a very long time being told your name wasn't on the list.
What is the movie that impacted you the most when you were growing up?
Mmm... I think Goodfellas.
1 kaiju size duck or 100 duck size kaiju?
Duck-sized kaijus. I could kick 'em.
Hey bud, Obsessed has always been a pretty tight movie. What's your favorite breakfast consist of?
My favourite breakfast?
Steak and eggs. Eggs over medium. With some hot sauce on the side. Maybe a waffle or some brown toast. And some spinach. And then... if i can't get that, then I'll get scrambled eggs and salmon with some avocado.
If possible to choose, what is your favourite scene from 'The Wire' that you were involved in?
My favourite scene is when I tell Avon that I killed D'Angelo. That was the scene yeah. It was a very Shakespearean Scene. And Avon and Stringer end up on the floor. It's actually the scene that sealed Stringer Bell's fate, although he didn't know it. I remember Wood and I, we sat in a trailer - and discussed what we were going to do pretty much all day. And ended up going in on set. It was incredible.
What are your thoughts on Breaking Bad?
Breaking Bad is ingenious. Amazin' writing, amazin' character studies, performances are off the chain, some of the best performances in television. Just a really interestin' slow burn of a dramer. That's what dramer is.
How did you feel as a British actor integrating with a large American cast when working on The Wire? Was it a big culture shock?
P.S. Stringer Bell was an incredible character.
No, actually, there wasn't a culture shock because as I said before in my answer, I'd live in America a long time prior to doing The Wire. And the truth is no one on the cast knew I was english. I spoke in an American accent the whole time. A lot of the actors who weren't there every day didn't know. Stringer would come in and come out, and a lot of people didn't know I was English because they didn't hear me speak .
What is your favourite videogame? What is the last game you played?
FIFA. And now UFC. Both of them.
What's your favorite movie?
My favourite movie is... none of you have seen a film called The Champ. I loved the Champ. One of my favourite movies. Faye Dunaway and John Voight.
What's your favorite show?
My favourite tee-vee show, actually I was a massive fan of the original Office, The English Office. I just found that hilarious. And when I was asked to be in the American Office, it was such a big coup for me man, I was really excited to be a part of that, because I'm a big fan of the English office. I wish Ricky does a comeback for the English office and my character comes into it, that'd be great. I'd love that.
Big up Idris! What's your DJ setup? Spinning on Serato, Traktor, or all vinyl?
I'm using Serato with CDJ Nexus 900s. Yeah. That's it.
Hello and welcome to Reddit!
I noticed that in Prometheus, your character basically saved the day (figured out it was a weapons depot, found the weapons, destroyed the ship, tapped some Charlize Theron, etc.) but never got the credit he deserved.
If there was a prequel or a sequel where Janek could be brought back, would you like to redress this terrible injustice?
I kind of felt like that I've been there and done it, to be honest. If it was a prequel, yes, but the sequel it'd be impossible unless I came back as the alien.
How did your relationship to Nelson Mandela changed after making the film?
Well, my relationship - unfortunately I didn't have a real relationship with him. But I was in awe of the man before, and even more so after. I learnt so much about him that it became more than just a respect for what he had done, you know? I just... I was floored, and I was in - what's the word - inspired by him, the principles that i learnt from him that i still carry with me to this day, and he remains to be a guiding light for me, you know. I always think "What might Mandela do right now," always.
What are your thoughts on juicing fruits and vegetables?
I think juicin' fruits and vegetables is incredible. It's very good, a good way to nourish your body, especially if you're like me, you work a lot of hours, need a lot of replenishment. I don't juice as much as I want to, but when I'm home in a stable place, I like to juice.
What is Cary Fukunaga's directing style? How does he work with actors?
Well, it's a hard question because in our film, the film we did together, there were varying levels of experience, some actors had never been in a film before, and there were some actors that hadn't, were a bit more experienced, so with the actors that hadn't been, you know, done it before, he was very hands on, asking them for the truth. He speaks a lot about logic. Just because you're on camera, he doesn't want you to make up an expression or fake an emotion, he wants you to think bout it would actually be like to be in that position. With more experienced actors, me especially, he just allowed me to be me and go for it. He wants as much variation, so that when he goes into the edit room, he can do with it what he wants. He expects you as an actor to know what you want to do, and to know your words, know your world, I found him a dream to work with because I hardly noticed he was there, to be honest, and it just allowed me to really take over my character. He was an amazin' director. He works really hard, he knows everything about filmmaking, and he expects his crew to do that too.
How do you like voice-acting, have you tried in The Jungle Book yet?
Yeah, I love voice actin.' I think it's a really interestin' way to use an actor. I do a lot of voice-overs, whether it's acting or commercials, stuff like that, and I really enjoy it.
Do you still DJ?
Yes, I still DJ. I Just finished a season in Ibiza. And it's one of my passions in life.
Where was your favorite spot to hang out while in Baltimore?
Uh - I want to say Moe's Seafood Spot, there's a seafood spot called Moe's. I didn't hang out there, I just ate there, a lot.
You've played in some great horror movies in 2007-9, how did you enjoyed it? Would you play in horror movies in future again?
I actually like the genre, to watch. It's a guilty pleasure. My daughter loves those movies, and we like to watch them together, just so we can frighten each other in certain places. It would be interesting to me to be in one again, not for any particular reason, apart from that I just like to do really varied work.
Hey Idris! Are there any particular directors you're dying to work with?
I will work with Chris Nolan one day.
What is your favorite sports car today? i love your new show but am curious as to what you really enjoy
Mmm...my favourite sports car... my 3-wheeler scooter that I like to rock.
Hi!! I like Luther a lot. Everyone seems to be asking all the important questions. So here's mine:
What's your favorite food? And is there a story behind your name? (Like what it means, or how you were named, etc.)
My favourite food is...chicken. And my name Idris - I was actually born Idrissa, and in Sierra Leone it means - it's like "First born son."
What do you like to do for exercise? I enjoy cycling, myself.
Idris, I loved your performance in Pacific Rim. Do you have any news pertaining to Pacific Rim 2? Thanks!
Yeah, I don't know much about Pacific Rim 2. I hear they are making one, and I don't know if my character will be in it, since my character died in the first one.
Mr. Elba. I really need to have the answer to this:
What's your favourite ice-cream flavour?
Favourite ice cream flavour is... rum and raisin!