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Idris Elba: From ‘The Wire’ to ‘Luther,’ Read About the Life and Career of the British Hunk

Get to know the charming actor!

He’s suave, tall, handsome and British — If there’s one man who is sure to steal our hearts time after time, it’s Idris Elba, known not only for his work in movies but for his exceptional career in television as well. And that’s not all. The 51-year-old hunk is also a rapper and DJ.

The early life of Idris Elba — before the movies and TV shows

Born in London to two immigrants, his mother from Ghana and his father from Sierra Leone, Elba credits a lot of who he is to this upbringing.

Idris Elba, 2002
Idris Elba, 2002Jim Spellman/WireImage/Getty Images

Although I was born in England, the first culture I experienced was Sierra Leonean,” he told Esquire in 2023. “The food, the environment, the music, the clothes, the attitude to the weather. All my experiences were West African first, then UK culture. I love being English, I love the culture here, I grew up here, I became a man in England, I’m very attached to it. But at the same time, I’ve also got another culture, which is African, Sierra Leonean specifically. I’m really thankful for it.”

As far as acting goes, it was during school that he first took an interest to the craft. Receiving a grant that allowed him to partake in the National Youth Music Theatre, Elba was set on a path toward stardom.

Idris Elba, 2023
Idris Elba, 2023 Cindy Ord/VF23/Getty Images for Vanity Fair/Getty Images

Throughout the 90s, the actor built his resume with TV appearances on a wide array of series such as The Bill, Degrees of Error, Ruth Rendell Mysteries, The Governor, Insiders, Family Affairs, Ultraviolet and Dangerfield before he took on his pivotal role on HBO’s The Wire in 2002.

He brought to life the character of drug kingpin Stringer Bell, and the show is said to be one of the greatest series of all time.

While this has gone on to be one of his most iconic roles, his audition required a little bit of a white lie.

Idris Elba, 2022
Idris Elba, 2022Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET

During an appearance on the podcast, What Now? with Trevor Noah, Elba revealed, “There’s one casting director, I talk about it all the time, Alexa Fogel. She would put me up for stuff and she said, ‘Hey, listen. This Wire thing’s come up. It’s called The Wire. It’s a pilot. They’re going to shoot it in January. But if you go in, you cannot let them know you aren’t American because they will not — I mean, this is about Baltimore. It’s very specific. They don’t want any strangers. I mean, please.’”

He kept up the ruse for as long as he could until they started asking about his backstory and the guilt forced him to come clean. Luckily, he was offered the role right then and there.

Life beyond ‘The Wire’

The HBO crime drama was only the beginning for the actor, and he went on to star in films like 28 Weeks Later (2007) and American Gangster (2007) before his next big hit in Luther.

The actor in 2023
Idris Elba, 2023Mike Marsland/WireImage/Getty Images

The Golden Globe-winning series had Elba playing the title character of a detective who, while successful at his job, must manage both his demanding occupation dealing with troubling criminals as well as his personal troubles.

“Luther, he’s probably the character that’s most like me, in real life,” he told Esquire. “He has so much conviction. He doesn’t try to overcomplicate things. He gets to the point. I love the writing. It’s fun to play.”

The actor in 2016
Idris Elba, 2016Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Between Luther‘s beginning in 2010 and end in 2019, the actor had roles in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), The Take (2016), Star Trek Beyond (2016), The Mountain Between Us (2017) and much more.

In more recent years, the actor could be seen in Luther: The Fallen Sun (2023), The Suicide Squad (2021) and Cats (2019), to name a few.


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