Idris Elba had a ‘real mental strain’: ‘The last year for me was very, very difficult’


Idris Elba covers the October/November issue of Esquire, mostly to promote The Harder They Fall, where he plays a cowboy in a “revisionist Western.” This cover interview was very good. Granted, I’m a huge Idris Elba fan and I would read a ten-page interview where he gave one-word answers. But Idris was particularly reflective in this interview, and he comes across as who he is: a mature, 49-year-old man who has been through a lot of sh-t personally and professionally. He has a lot of grace and class, and even when he’s justifiably complaining about racism or unfair treatment, he’s never like “f–k them all, I’ll burn the place down.” He gives people a fair shot, even when they’ve behaved terribly. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:

Getting Covid in March 2020: “Having Covid at the time I got it, it was very, very early in its cycle…So it was like, ‘Oh, sh-t, I’m going to die.’ I could have easily been a statistic: went to a hospital and lungs failed and that’s the end of it. Very easily. I’ve had friends whose families have died”—Elba snaps his fingers—“like that.”

All of the stupid conspiracies about his Covid diagnosis: “The good favor that some people in the public eye get—which I definitely benefit from—was gone in an instant. In an instant. People that loved me one moment absolutely f–king hated me the next. It was like, ‘You’re fake; you’re being paid.’ No one really believed. It was really a tough time. So where I am now, you’re looking at a man that’s very thankful. You’re looking at a man that’s very reflective of what’s happened over the last eighteen months. You’re looking at a man that doesn’t really have time to waste on pretending to be anything but what I am. Who I am and what I am.”

His mental health strain: “The last year for me was very, very difficult. I wouldn’t put it down to a lack of work or anything like that. I’d put it down to a real mental strain that I couldn’t put my finger on, and where it came from. It manifests in waves of anger and, perhaps, depression. A little bit of a lack of, I wouldn’t say optimism, but just a lack of joy, sometimes.”

Being a public figure, a celebrity: “It looks amazing from the outside, but there’s a lot of stuff that happens in the public eye that’s not fun. I’m not allowed to just go out and get drunk and have a rant and get kicked out of a pub and then feel bad the next day. Part of your duty is to be an example. So what happens is there’s a suppression of stuff coupled with grief. People might think, You’re all right; you got loads of money. But it doesn’t work that way. You’re still human. I can’t spend my money in my mind. I can’t spend my money in my grief.”

Seeing the racism directed at Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho & Bukayo Saka. “I was devastated. Devastated for football. Devastated for my country. Devastated. England has this one shining moment where we nearly get there. And the moment we don’t get there, it boils down to that. Broke my heart, man. But at the same time, coming from where I come from in Canning Town, that was every day. A moment like that does not define you. And being called a ‘monkey’ or a ‘coon’ does not define who you are. But f–k that, I’ve had it in many different shapes and forms. When I got the role as Heimdall in the Marvel universe, there was a real outcry from a sect of the fans…”

He can’t worry about trolls: “If you get to a level like mine, I can’t sit here and worry about some dickhead who’s got a pseudonym writing, ‘Idris is Black, he shouldn’t play. . .’ I don’t care; I shouldn’t care about that. Plus, I’ve got a thick skin, man. I’m old and ugly enough to know that they love you, then they hate you, then they love you again.”

Whether he’s “the Denzel” for young Black British actors like Daniel Kaluuya & Regé-Jean Page: “I don’t know. Denzel and those people were trailblazers in their industry and the first of their kind. If there is a generation that looks at me the way I looked at Denzel and Wesley and those guys when I was coming up, then great. If I’m that for others, then I’m very proud to take that.”

[From Esquire]

He also talked about his family a lot – he has a 19-year-old daughter, Isan, who is a college student and you can tell he’s incredibly proud of her. He has a seven-year-old son and they got a puppy (a sheepdog/poodle mix) which his son named Lola. He says he’s going to take some time off from traveling and working for a few months, which I think is a good idea – mostly, he seems burned out. Burned out because of the travel, the pandemic, the work, balancing everything with quarantines and lockdowns. He’s spent the better part of 35 years working constantly – he absolutely needs some time off.


Covers and photos courtesy of Esquire.

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9 Responses to “Idris Elba had a ‘real mental strain’: ‘The last year for me was very, very difficult’”

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  1. HandforthParish says:

    Yes, but isn’t he doing the Luther film first?
    I love the way he talks about the character of Luther- you can tell it is genuinely hugely important to him.

  2. Barbie1 says:

    Poor guy. He really sounds depressed. Hoping he can get through it.

  3. GrnieWnie says:

    A lot of men refer to themselves as ugly. I just don’t get it. I don’t see anything close to the majority of men being ugly…very few, actually. Certainly not Idris.

  4. Oria says:

    I’m not one for throwing diagnosis around online, but Idris has always struck me as someone with undiagnosed ADHD. It’s just the sum of his actions, how he speaks and thinks, that makes me think along those lines.

    It would make sense with the timeline.
    He got married and 2019, and 1 year after he’s depressed. (and we’re hit with a pandemic and people turned on him, like he’s talking about).

    He seems like the kind of person who does a lot, throws himself into a lot and goes all in. And eventually burn out.

    The pandemic with lock downs and quarantine, has been especially hard on my friends with ADHD and add. And it has somewhat excerbated their symptoms.

    I might be projecting, though. Sorry to hear he’s in a funk so early after getting married.

    I know most people love him, but it sounds like he took his fame for granted and when people started “hating” him it took a toll on him? Idk

    • GrnieWnie says:

      seems to me like he’s too working class to take fame for granted, IIRC. He’s got an infamous work ethic.

  5. Lucy says:

    It’s great to hear (read) a man like Idris openly talking about such topics.

  6. Chantal says:

    Love Idris and how talented and forthright he is. I remember the calls from certain US Republicans to boycott Thor when it was announced Idris would be in it. They didn’t even know what role and acted like he was going to be Thor lol. I don’t know if Idris has made the connection but i think that the hate he’s been receiving is like the hate the DM is pushing towards Rege-Jean Page. When the calls for these two popular, handsome and debonair men to be the next James Bond became numerous and deafening, the negative press by the BM towards and about them drastically increased. I noticed it increasing for Idris shortly after Daniel Craig publicly supported him as the next James Bond. Idris publicly supporting Harry and Meghan also puts him in the crosshairs of the BM. I will however remain a huge fan. I enjoyed the film The Harder They Fall and although the events in the film weren’t true, the characters were based on real people and the film used their actual names.

  7. phlyfiremama says:

    #StringerBellForever #SoHot

  8. Tw says:

    I had covid early on. Then long covid for about 8 month – violent coughing and shortness of breath. My ribs ached when I coughed for months and months. In April 2020, 1 month after my covid began, I coughed on a conference call for work and a colleague jokingly accused me of faking and asked “if I coughed during run that day.” I said “I can’t run, why do you ask”. It was a rough time to be sick and accused of faking, I’ll tell you that. I was a marathoner and I still don’t have my lung capacity back fully.