Idris Elba talks playing Luther

The Wirestar on his final series as lead in the BBC cop drama Luther

Interview, Time In

British actor Idris Elba talks about his smash-hit cop series Luther and what we can expect for the third and final series.

Following on from his infamous performance in The Wire, 41-year-old British actor Idris Elba has been making audiences stir with his portrayal of a troubled cop in UK series, Luther. The series entered its third and final take last month with four concluding episodes, which are now available on Amazon. Here, the actor tells us what to expect.

What is in store for Luther this series?
He’s trying to make a big change to his lifestyle and his commitment to his work. He feels like a happier man, and he’s making an effort to open up to love. That situation where you don’t want to be around anyone, then meet someone and the floodgates open. But he’s also being held accountable for his behaviour up to now. Fans will ask how long he can get away with it and this year it comes to a head.

What keeps Luther and his nemesis, Alice, coming back together again?
The bond lies within their intellect and this chemistry between them that they enjoy exploring. He’s on the right side of the law, a smart man; she’s on the wrong side and super smart. They have common ground which no one else can step into.

Did you expect the show to become so popular so quickly?
Not at all. I was concerned it was a genre show. Even though I was popular from The Wire, British audiences hadn’t seen me on TV for ten years, so it was a risk casting me as the lead. And I didn’t want to become stereotyped as a gangster after playing Stringer Bell, so I jumped at it. But I was very surprised at how popular it became, especially worldwide.

What made you come back?
I wanted to make sure the character lived its arc, at least for television. It’s no secret I’ve been trying to get a film version of this going, but I wanted this story to end in an interesting way – we leave on a cliffhanger.

Is this the end of Luther on telly?
Well there’s the option of one-off specials, but I’m not sure whether we’ll do those. We think we’re a film when we’re making the show, so we should go all the way. But I’m very loyal to the audience who’ve been very loyal to us – if they demand a series or some variation on that, then I think that should happen.

Where are you with the film?
[Creator] Neil Cross has an idea, so we’re fleshing that out now. The development funding’s in place, but the film hasn’t been given the green light. An old-school thriller in British film hasn’t been done well for a while. The spine of it will probably come from Neil’s book The Calling, which starts at the beginning of who Luther is and where he comes from. It will be an origin story.

What’s it like spending so much time in Luther’s head?
Very absorbing. I end up being quite darkened, mood wise.

Do people steer clear of you on set?
Yeah, to be honest. Not because I’m unfriendly, but I just get into a zone and have to stay there because there’s a lot of emoting. I saw a man hanging from a tree: I’ve never seen that in my life. I know he’s a stuntman, but the impact makes it a very dark show. The price is that it darkens my mood. I need a holiday once I’ve finished.
Series three, from Dhs50 available at www.amazon.co.uk.

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