Exclusive Interview: Idris Elba Opens Up About LUTHER’s Guilt and Atonement in Season Two

Luther Idris Elba

If you ever sit down and look at Idris Elba act, you realize two things. One, this is a man in the true sense of the word as he displays a tough, gritty and intense exterior. Two, this man has incredible emotional depth, where one moment you feel like he is going to knock your teeth out and the next you feel like he is carrying the sorrow of the world on his shoulders.

Starting today Tuesday June 14th, Elba will be back in the role of the intense and complex Detective Chief Inspector John Luther when the second season of Luther returns on BBC one. I had a chance to chat with the Emmy hopeful recently and ask him about Luther, his intense schedule and something no one has ever asked him before. Check out what he had to say below.

Between blockbuster movies like Thor and hit TV series like Luther, you are a very busy man. How do you manage to juggle all the different projects you’re doing?

Idris Elba: I’m currently working on ‘Prometheus’ now and that’s the only project that I’m working on, but there are things in the pipeline that may happen. But really it’s more scheduling than anything else. People think that I’m working on things all at the same time. I’m not actually. I’m just working on Ridley’s [Scott] film and that’s scheduled out and I’m happy doing that even though I think the next project will probably be at the end of the year. It’s all scheduling.

You have a good foothold in both TV and film. Is it the same in each world or do you have to switch your mindset each time you go from one to the other?

Idris Elba: The film world and television is the same in process, except you have more time to do more in film. In television there’s a stricter schedule, and so you don’t have the luxuries that you’re afforded in film. But the process is still the same. My process is still the same. Show up, turn up, hit my marks and say my lines.

The first season of ‘Luther‘ was critically acclaimed. Did you expect the show to be such a huge success?

Idris Elba: I only hoped that it would be successful. I wasn’t sure how the British public was going to see it. It’s slightly against the grain when it comes to the BBC typically makes. In other words, it’s quite dark for a British show, a BBC show and the character is quite an anti-hero. But at the same time when it was successful it did prove our theory in making this, that audiences wanted to see some more challenge in TV, especially English audiences want to see challenges in TV. Although I was surprised how successful it was, I certainly was happy that people responded to it in the way that we’d hoped.

How do you approach the character of Luther?

Idris Elba: Obviously, the writing is where I get most of my inspiration from to bring that character to life, but complexity does actually come within myself and how I manage to level that with the performance. So, in other words, we all have demons that some people get to exorcise or not and I do that with my characters. Luther is one of those where I can literally go for a range of emotions. Some of it is personal, deep issue stuff for me and other is stuff that’s just purely in the script.

Was the second season easier to do or did it offer new challenges?

Idris Elba: We tried something new with this character. We wanted to show the evolution of what happens to someone like him after something like that at the end of the season. So, he is slightly different. He’s a man who’s making an attempt to be better than he was. There’s a lot of guilt that sits on his shoulders this time around, and towards the end of this season I think you start to see him lift off that guilt a little bit.

What can you tease about the second season of Luther?

Idris Elba: The storylines are just as visceral, graphic and dark that they’ve always been in ‘Luther‘. What we’ve done is make two major storylines over four episodes this time around and then we’ve got the arc of some of the questions that we left unanswered in the first season. Those are being answered over the four episodes as an arc. So, the Luther/Alice storyline, you start to understand what their relationship is growing into or not. We’ve brought back some of the popular characters that work with Luther. We’ve got some new characters as well, but it’s just as complex. It’s just as dark, except for Luther, he’s been through a lot at this point, a huge amount of stuff.

In ‘The Big C‘ you had a very interesting part, playing with Laura Linney. What was that experience like?

Idris Elba: That was a complete surprise to be involved in that. Laura Linney had asked me to be in it personally at a time when I really wanted to work, but I wasn’t because I had torn my Achilles and I got a call from Laura Linney, saying, ‘Come by and work on this. It shouldn’t be too difficult because of your leg.’ ‘Alright. Fantastic,’ and I did. It was such a fun fresh of breath air for me. My guy Lenny in that is just a nice guy. He’s a bit of a romantic lover, but I really had a good time playing him. There’s tinges of comedy in there which I love to do as well.

Do you think there’s a chance the character will be back for a second season?

Idris Elba: I’m not sure if there were any plans for Lenny to come back. He was definitely designed as a love affair. They weren’t planning to go any further than that.

If there was the opportunity would you consider it?

Idris Elba: Yes, I would consider it. But it would be a matter of timing and when, but I love working on ‘The Big C’ and I love working with Laura Linney.

A lot of people can’t talk about you without talking about your character in The Wire, Stringer Bell. Does that ever get old ?

Idris Elba: People forget that there’s been seven or six years between Luther and Stringer. One of my favorite parts in any film that I’ve ever done which never ever gets mentioned which is ‘Sometimes in April‘. It’s not so much that it gets old, but I wonder if sometimes people don’t research enough or can’t be bothered. By the way, some of the other things that I’ve done that aren’t iconic aren’t designed to be iconic and are just me acting in films that I’ve been in. It would be nice to see a little bit more of a spread of information so that people think I haven’t just done Stringer and now just Luther.

We see a lot more British actors getting cast in important roles in Hollywood. Do you find that it’s easy or hard for British actors to get work in Hollywood compared to their American counterparts?

Idris Elba: I haven’t thought about it that way. My introduction into major television in America wasn’t as a British actor. As far as anyone was concerned I was an American. So, my entry point is not the same. I don’t feel that I’m a part of this new wave of British actors getting in films. It just so happens that I happen to be British, but I lived in America for a while before I even got a job. So, it certainly wasn’t any advantage point being English, but I haven’t really noticed the trend, as you might put or the landscape of Hollywood, but I think the world being what it is there’s some really good actors coming in from all over the world and making American films. There are great directors coming from other parts of the world making American stories and vice versa. So, I love that. I don’t see any problems with that. I think it’s healthy.

Is there a question that you’ve been dying to answer that no one asks, anything really?

Idris Elba: That’s a good question. A lot of people don’t know that I was actually a part of the decision to kill Stringer Bell. That was basically a career decision. I was a part of that decision.

I think that they were going to do it anyway, but they didn’t want to lose me or the career. I was for that decision. David Simon called me and said, ‘What do you think about that?’ I said, ‘I think it’s a good idea. We should do it.’ A lot of people ask, ‘How did you feel when they killed you off? Were you upset?’ I was like, ‘Of course I was upset because I loved doing the show, but I actually helped David make that decision when he did.’

Like I said, I think he was always going to do it. He was always going to find a way to end Stringer and Avon, but I think I aided him a bit in saying, ‘Lets do it this way, at the height of his popularity.’

If you could guest star on any show you wanted what would it be?

Idris Elba: I might actually guest star on ‘True Blood‘. I just love that show, man. I think it’s so well written and there’s so much good stuff that happens in it, and if not that then maybe ‘Mad Men‘ would be cool.