Idris Elba is a very good actor, who’s been in some brilliant stuff, TV shows especially. He also seems to be an alright guy. Whenever I’ve seen him in interviews, he’s always seemed really down to earth, and I probably like that more about him than all the films and TV shows he’s been in.
One of my favourite things about Elba though is the fact that he’s never been shy in talking about difficulties he’s faced in his career, and also what he’s had to do to over come those. This is something that resonates with me, because I’m someone who hopes to one day work in the glorious industry that is film and television.
However, I am fully aware of the issues I face due to my background. This is an industry that is massively challenging to get into anyway, but in the UK there is a major class divide, and this is something that affects anybody wanting to get into any part of film and TV.
Now I say this as a white working-class female in 2018. So if background is something that I see as an issue facing whatever prospective career I should have in the pipeline, imagine what it must’ve been like for a young Idris Elba, wanting to break onto the acting scene in Britain in the late nineties/early noughties.
To the best of my knowledge, he didn’t really get to become known here in the UK until 2010 when the BBC cast him as the lead in their gritty crime thriller, Luther. The nation fell in love with the man almost overnight. It was an instant success, and the love for it continues now, eight years after it first came to our screens.
However, if Luther had have been made ten years earlier, the likelihood of it casting Elba, or any other black actor for that matter, would have been very slim. It’s this fact that the man has never shied away from speaking about. A few years after Luther first aired, he was doing a press tour, and the matter if his race and how he felt this had impacted his career came up. Elba was completely open, and said that early on in his career, he made the decision to go to the US because the work he wanted simply wasn’t available here.
Admittedly, this was something that ended up working out quite well for him. In 2002, HBO released a TV show called The Wire – you may have heard of it. The Wire enjoyed a run of five seasons, and despite receiving little or no awards recognition, it is now widely regarded as one of the greatest TV shows to have ever been made. Idris Elba was a main cast member for three seasons, which were arguably the best three that the show had.
Not too bad for someone who headed over to America in an attempt to find work that wasn’t coming to him at home. And now he’s also taking a step behind the camera working on projects that, had they have existed 10-20 years ago, might have meant he didn’t have to go as far afield for work himself. Shows like In The Long Run and Guerrilla, and then films such as Yardie, which was his directorial debut earlier this year – all of these projects show him trying to create spaces for the younger generation that didn’t exist for him.
That is what I love most about him, above all else. Elba has been able to overcome the challenges he faced on his way to stardom, and that’s pretty great in itself. Everybody loves an underdog story after all. But the fact that he’s now trying to change what could potentially be the same situation for other generations to come is pretty admirable in my eyes, and will see that I remain a fan of him for a long time to come yet.