Idris Elba on fame: ‘I feel awkward, Idris feels like he doesn’t have much to offer’


Idris Elba is Playboy’s “20 Questions” feature in the November issue. Y’all know I love Idris, even if his interviews are usually rather messy (to his credit, though, he seems to let all of his mess hang out). But you should not expect some Samuel L. Jackson magnificence with this interview. Still, it’s a decent piece and I do love that Idris is getting more coverage overall. You can read the full piece here, and here are some highlights:

Struggling in real life made Stringer Bell: “Yes. People I’d been raised with in London made money as a hustle, whether it was drugs or being a pool shark. Flash drug dealers went to jail, cool drug dealers didn’t. I had that embedded in my system since I was a kid. My dad was a pool shark. We’d go to pubs and he’d pretend he didn’t know how to play, put down a bet and win. The point is, Stringer was in my system. And when I got to America, I understood what was happening in the hood. I lived in Jersey City, which is a rough neighborhood, and in Flatbush for a while. That was my preparation for the role. [pauses] By the way, you know I’ve never watched The Wire.

Judging his own work: “I’m supercritical of my own work. As an actor, if you’re being told how wonderful you are, what do you need to strive for? I don’t know if I’m good just because some critic says I am in the press. [When told that he’s good, he smiles.] The Golden Globe award told me that, thanks. And the two Emmy nominations. Just the small things.”

His cockney accent: “In the circumference of London, if you come from the east, people know you’re a cheeky chappy. You’ve got a bit of a mouth, a gift of the gab, you’re wheeling and dealing. My personality is formed by that. East Londoners speak cockney—if you’re born within a three-mile radius of the Bow Bells, then you’re cockney. That’s typically what my accent is, but it depends on who I’m talking to. Today I did a BET show and was like, “Yo, man, what up? How you feelin’, bro?” I’m a bit of a parrot. [Holds up a pint] It depends on how many glasses of Guinness I smoke down… I tell a better story in a cockney accent—I’m more cheeky, there’s more eyewinks and finger-pointing—but I’m always worried people don’t understand what I’m saying. East London language is quite lazy and laid-back, which makes it easier for me to speak American. When I hear people from Brooklyn, I can understand how they make those sounds, because my accent is similar. Our tongues work the same way.”

He went to an all-boys school: “It felt like punishment. My parents moved, and they signed me up for the nearest school to our house. It was lunchtime, and I asked, “So do the girls eat in a separate building?” And the teacher said, “Son, this is a boys’ school.” I was mortified. But there were loads of girls in the neighborhood. Trust me, I wasn’t short of girls.”

Whether he’s more like his mom or his dad: “More like my mum, believe it or not. Man, what’s that about? I’m very protective of my daughter and who she hangs out with. Same stuff my mum used to do, when I’d tell her, “Mum, relax.” [laughs] You can drive yourself nuts as a parent, thinking about what boys do and what I got up to as a kid. If my kid got up to that same stuff, I’d be horrified.”

On drugs: “Drug culture is a big part of the house music scene that I deejay now. Loads of DJs get smashed. But then you end up playing sh–ty music. At first I bypassed drugs. I didn’t start smoking weed until later in life. Am I allowed to say that? I mean, I’m not gonna lie—I’ve tried everything, just between you, me and the people who read this magazine. I’ve tried it all. I played one of the biggest drug dealers in the world on TV, so you think I’d know what I was talking about.”

Whether he’s like Luther in real life: “In real life I’m a shy person. As soon as the spotlight’s on me, I feel awkward. Idris feels like he doesn’t have much to offer. That’s why I end up plowing myself into these characters. With Luther I get to play a guy who can be grumpy all day long and doesn’t give a f–k about it. I’m not allowed to be that grumpy! As an actor I have to be friendly and super-accessible… I’m really f–king serious; I’m a shy man. I’m great at hiding in characters. When I deejay, I’m great at standing behind the turntables. If I go to a club, I’m awkward. Should I stand there? Should I dance? You’re not going to see me dance. I end up standing by the DJ.”

Guesting on The Office: “Miner was a prick. I was really f–king excited to do that show. I wanted to be funny. I was going to do my impression of Ricky Gervais and use all these weird English expressions you’ve never seen a black man use. Then the producers decided they wanted me to play the character as an American. S–t. I was so disappointed, because it was my chance to be funny. Instead, Miner was the straight guy—to the point where he was a bit unlikable.”

How fame affects his chances with women: “It happens to me all the time, still. I’ll sit in a pub and nobody will recognize me. I might see an attractive woman, but she doesn’t recognize me, so I’m not getting any love. Then one person goes, “Oh, it’s you,” and suddenly they all overhear and start asking questions. It’s bulls–t. I’ve been in and out of relationships, I’ve been married, and it’s hard to keep a relationship when you’re an actor. A girl I knew said to me, “My dad told me, ‘Never date an actor or a DJ.’?” It was over, right there on the spot. I was f–ked.

[From Playboy]

The Playboy interviewer also read back some of Idris’s rap lyrics to him and he got slightly embarrassed by the lyric “my d–k’s as thick as butter.” *headdesk* And this is why I don’t pay attention to Idris’s rap career. I like to pretend it never happened.

Also – I think I’ve seen one of two episodes of The Office with Idris, and I remember being surprised that they made him do an American accent. He’s right, it would have been funnier with an English accent.

Last thing: “Idris feels like he doesn’t have much to offer.” OH MY GOD. Kaiser doesn’t understand why actors ever feel the need to talk about themselves in the third person. Kaiser feels like it’s so… Kellan Lutz.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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67 Responses to “Idris Elba on fame: ‘I feel awkward, Idris feels like he doesn’t have much to offer’”

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  1. TheOriginalKitten says:

    That’s it. I’m going to have to sit on his face to get him to stop talking.

    I simply have no other choice.

  2. T.Fanty says:

    T.Fanty feels like T.Fanty should not have exposed T.Fanty’s increasingly delicate Idris-love to that interview.

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      When will we learn to not click?

      • Miss M says:

        We are learning the hard way, aren’t we?! I could had avoided this vomit and eye-rolling inducing interview.

      • Sixer says:

        Fnar. My devious plan is working. I have told him to give bad interview. That way, it puts you lot off and I get him to myself.

      • T.fanty says:

        Apparently never. I’m starting to feel like the person who goes to every Cumberbatch post to whine about the fact that it’s there.

      • TheOriginalKitten says:

        If I were a Cumberbitch, I would be very worried about my beloved becoming overexposed. I’m just glad that most women around here hate Fassy and his yellow teeth because if he was as beloved as Cumby, I would fear the inevitable backlash that comes with so much market saturation. Benedict is a gifted actor, but he’s getting reduced to merely an object of lust, and this extends beyond the confines of Tumblr.

        Ah well, at least it’s Time and not Tiger Beat (is that still being published?).

        As far as the people that *click and complain*, I think it’s really just because they feel left out. The poor kids can’t relate to the Cumberlove, they feel excluded, so they lash out.

      • Sixer says:

        @OKitt – Fassy isn’t particularly high on my list but I must say I don’t get the idea that teeth that are so white and straight they look plastic are must-haves. Who wants a man with falsies?

      • T.Fanty says:


        Meh. It’ll ease off. He’s having his moment in the sun because he has a bunch of movies out in short succession. This level of over-exposure has another two months of life in it, tops. He isn’t the draw in August: Osage County, and if the general consensus is correct, and he gets squeezed out of Oscar contention, he’ll quickly become yesterday’s news.

        This happened to Colin Firth, Clive Owen, Jude Law, Hugh Grant… with British Men, everyone goes wild on them for a while, then moves on to the next hot British thing and the actor settles to a level of fame appropriate to their talent and work interests. It’ll happen to Cumby, but in the meantime he’d be a fool not to ride it and use it to accelerate his reputation as a Serious Actor.

        Plus, over-exposure on CB and in the world at large are two very different things.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I did it! I just looked at the pictures and didn’t read the interview. It was heaven. The bird of love stayed right on the perch. I am inventing a personality for him in my head and completely ignoring reality. I may have found the key to life, y’all. Not to brag or anything.

  3. Miss M says:

    “Idris feels like he doesn’t have much to offer.” YOu d*mn right, dude! Spot on!

    As for the comparison with my beloved Kellan, Kellan is actually very sweet in person + he doesn’t come off as a Huge a$$hole douchebag. No comparison…

  4. Jen says:

    Is he really referring to himself in third person? That combined with his horrible “rap career” makes my nonexistent ladyboner for him shrink even more.

  5. GeeMoney says:

    Oh honey, I would recognize you in a pub in a heartbeat.

    Perhaps you should come visit Washington, DC… and we can hang out… *smiles uncontrollably*

  6. Dia says:

    I can’t stop laughing. Is this dude serious? I liked him better when he didn’t do interviews.

  7. gg says:

    I haven’t read the article and ain’t interested in sports but he sure is handsome.

  8. Buffy2000 says:

    Hmmm, I don’t know, the interview wasn’t bad. And while it was cringe-worthy he only referred to himself in the third person *once* so I’ll give him a pass for that. It’s not like he did it all throughout the interview. I can *kinda* understand (Not condone) the context in which he used it, but honestly I’m too lazy to try and explain it. Sorry Big D :-) )

  9. Megan says:

    Idris has oh so much to offer, just so much.

    And i can’t believe he hasn’t seen the wire. he is missing out.

  10. BooBooLaRue says:

    I swear our paths crossed in Jersey City! Oh poor baby come to mama and I will make it all better, just shut up and stop talking to reporters. . .

  11. Jackie Jormp Jomp (formerly Zelda) says:

    Idris Elba is hot. Referring to himself in the third person is :(

  12. Trek Girl says:

    He referred to himself in the third person once — just once. I think that was a good thing to do seeing as how he was talking about himself in real life and how he’s different from Luther. It works.

    I don’t see anything in this interview that’s worthy of a single cringe or head-desk. He’s relatable. I like that. I like the whole interview.

  13. Jay says:

    He was referring to himself in the third person to make a point – as in, as Idris the person, he doesn’t feel like he has much to offer, so he hides in his characters. I have no issue with that.

    I think he gives an interesting interview. My ladyboner stands.

  14. Lucy Goosey says:

    Idris Elba is awesome. However, Idris Elba needs to stop talking about Idris Elba in the third person. This really annoys Lucy Goosey.

  15. Eve says:

    This isn’t the first time he refers to himself in the third person — he’s a repeat offender:

    “When I’m playing Luther,’ he says, ‘Idris ends up in a darker place.’”

    “If Idris had been a footballer now, he’d have been coming to the end of his career now,”

    I know he’s using it to make a point: the characters he plays versus who he is in real life, but still…it’s so much better when he simply says “I”.

    P.S.: There were more, I’m only posting two because I don’t want to kill everyone’s boner (also, because I’m lazy).

  16. Claudia says:

    No! Not again! I took the time to read his quotes! *hangs head*

    Oh Idris… Claudia didn’t even know you had a hokey rap career! SHE DIDN’T KNOW! *cries*

    Goddamnittsomuch, when will I learn to gloss over the text and just focus on the pretty pictures???

  17. Lark says:

    I love Idris, but Idris needs to stop talking about himself in the third person and ditch his “rap” career. Ugh. Other than that, he’s amazing.

  18. Thiajoka says:

    This man is MINE! That’s all.

  19. Kit says:

    This referring to oneself in the third person thing always makes me think of Elmo from Sesame Street.

  20. themummy says:

    When I read his interviews it makes my lady-boner go away. So I skip them now and just look at his pretty, pretty pictures. God, this man is beautiful…and hot!!