‘The Wire’s’ Idris Elba talks about life & frugality

Idris Elba

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It takes a unique combination of talent and luck for an actor to create an iconic role, and British actor Idris Elba had heaps of both at his disposal when Stringer Bell came along. Stringer, for the uninitiated, was the dark heart of the first few seasons of HBO’s now iconic series “The Wire,” a show that lagged in ratings and Emmys, but was regarded by critics — and just about everyone else who saw it — as the greatest drama in the history of television.
But while appearing on a show of this sort is no guarantee of future stardom — especially for a show with as large an ensemble cast as “The Wire” — Elba’s good fortune has continued. Commercially, he’s had successes such as co-starring opposite Beyonce in the stalker-thriller “Obsessed” and guest starring in an arc on NBC’s “The Office.” But his most challenging and critically acclaimed post-Wire project has been as Detective John Luther, a man torn between doing good and the attraction of evil, on BBC’s “Luther,” which aired on BBC America in the U.S., and recently released its four-episode second season on DVD.

Photo by PR Photos
When you were a struggling actor, how did you make a living?

I was a bartender. I was a DJ most of the time. I did a little door work. I worked at Carolines comedy club in New York, on the door for a while. I worked at Ford Motor Company at Dagenham, East London, making cars for Ford. I’ve been about, man. Acting is the only thing I’ve wanted to do, so I didn’t do any permanent jobs. I just did odd jobs to keep me in the space where I can audition for stuff.

I’m surprised to hear you were the doorman at Carolines. A lot of funny and famous people go through there.

Yeah, I was there for a year and change. I had a good time working there. I met all the comedians. It’s funny now, because they’re like, wait a second. Don’t I know you? I’m like, yeah, I’m the guy at the door. That was me.