Idrissa Akuna "Idris" Elba (born 6 September 1972) is an English television, theatre, and film actor. He has starred in both British and American productions. He grew up in Canning Town, East London. One of his first acting roles was in the soap opera Family Affairs. He has worked in a variety of TV roles including Ultraviolet and The Inspector Lynley Mysteries. He is known for playing Russell "Stringer" Bell, a Baltimore drug lord and aspiring businessman, in HBO's critically acclaimed show The Wire. Elba is a DJ under the moniker DJ Big Driis/Big Driis the Londoner, and a hip-hop soul recording artist.
In 2009, Elba appeared on a six-episode arc of the American sitcom The Office, playing Charles Miner, Michael Scott's new boss. In 2010, he appeared in the action film The Losers in the role of Roque, the second-in-command of a black-ops team. The same year, he appeared in the thriller Takers. Elba plays the title role of Detective John Luther in the BBC television show Luther that aired from 4 May 2010 on BBC One, which has finished its second series. Elba has won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of DCI Luther.
Elba, an only child, was born Idrissa Akuna Elba, and shortened his first name at school in Canning Town, where he first became involved in acting. His father is Sierra Leonean and his mother is Ghanaian. Elba grew up in East Ham, and began helping an uncle with his wedding-DJ business in 1986, and within a year he had started his own DJ company with some of his best friends. Elba left school in 1988 and won a place in the National Youth Music Theatre—thanks to a £1,500 Prince’s Trust grant, but then ended up having to do everything from tyre-fitting to cold-call advertising sales to pay the rent between roles in Crimewatch murder reconstructions. Elba was working in nightclubs under the DJ nickname Big Driis in 1991, but began auditioning for television parts in his early twenties. After a stint in the National Youth Music Theatre, he worked the night shift at a Ford factory in Dagenham from 1989-90. He started his acting career while in high school with encouragement from his drama teacher.
Although his film, television, and stage work officially commenced around 1992, in 1995 he landed his first role on a series called Bramwell, a medical drama set in 1890s England. His first credited role arrived in 1995, with a supporting role as a gigolo on the episode of Absolutely Fabulous, entitled "Sex." Many supporting roles on British television followed, including such series as The Bill and The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. He joined the cast of the soap opera Family Affairs and rose to prominence in the acclaimed serial Ultraviolet. He went on to appear in a more established television series, Dangerfield, in 1999, playing a forensic scientist.
He decided to move to New York City soon after. He returned to England occasionally for a job, such as a part in one of the Inspector Lynley Mysteries, a top-rated crime series. In 2001, Elba played Achilles in a stage production of Troilus and Cressida in New York City. After a supporting turn on a 2001 episode of Law & Order, he landed a starring role on a 2002 HBO drama, The Wire. From 2002 to 2004, Elba portrayed Russell "Stringer" Bell in the HBO drama series, perhaps his best known role in the US. In 2005, he portrayed CaptainAugustin Muganza in Sometimes in April, an HBO film about the Rwandan Genocide. Elba appeared on the 2007 BET special Black Men: The Truth. Elba appeared in the role of Charlie Gotso in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency opposite Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose, filmed in Botswana. The series premiered on 23 March 2008, Easter Sunday, on BBC One, receiving a high 6.3 million viewers and 27% of the audience share.
In January 2009, it was reported per Variety that Elba would portray Charles Miner, a new rival to Dunder Mifflin regional manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell) for NBC's The Office.Elba appeared in a six episode story arc later in the 2009 season as well as the season finale.
In September 2009, Elba signed a deal to star as the lead role in the 6-part BBC television show Luther that aired in May 2010. In October 2009, it was announced that Elba will executive produce an untitled legal drama for NBC. He portrayed Laura Linney's lover on Showtime's The Big C in 2010.
At the 69th Golden Globe Awards telecast on 15 January 2012, Elba won the Award for Best Actor in a Series, Mini-Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television for his portrayal of DCI Luther in the BBC Crime-Thriller series Luther.
In 2006, Elba signed on as the lead of the 2007 dramedy Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls, playing Monty, a blue-collar mechanic who falls in love with a six-figure attorney (Gabrielle Union) helping him gain custody of his kids, and finds the relationship and his custody hopes threatened by the re-arrival of his ex-wife. He joined the supporting cast of Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's 28 Weeks Later (2007), the horror-themed sequel to Danny Boyle's 2002 zombie picture 28 Days Later. He filmed This Christmas with Chris Brown, Mekhi Phifer, Loretta Devine and Regina King, that brought in nearly $50 million at the box office in 2007.
In 2008, Elba starred in the horror film Prom Night and Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla. In January 2009, Elba starred in horror film The Unborn. He starred in Obsessed, alongside Beyonce Knowles and Ali Larter, as an asset manager who has a beautiful wife (Knowles) and thriving career until a temp office worker (Larter) begins stalking him. Obsessed was a box office success after it took in $29 million in its opening weekend. Obsessed was released on DVD on 4 August 2009.
Elba next film was Legacy (2010) in which he portrayed a black ops soldier, Malcolm, who returned to Brooklyn after a failed mission in Eastern Europe, where he undertook a journey looking for retribution. He posted a picture of himself from the set on his Twitter page. He starred in Dark Castle's adaptation of DC/Vertigo's The Losers, under the direction of Sylvain White, in the role of Roque, the second-in-command of a black-ops team out for revenge against a government that did them wrong. Filming took place in Puerto Rico and the movie was released in April 2010. Elba appeared in the 2010 thriller Takers, also starring Hayden Christensen, Chris Brown, T.I., and Paul Walker. He played Heimdall in Kenneth Branagh's 2011 Thor film (based upon the Marvel Comics superhero of the same name). In August 2010, it was announced that Elba would portray the title character in a reboot of James Patterson's Alex Cross film franchise. However, the actor was replaced in February 2011 by Tyler Perry. Elba appeared in the 2012 sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, alongside Nicolas Cage, with Elba playing an alcoholic warrior monk tasked with finding Ghost Rider. On Wednesday, 22 June 2011, it was announced that Elba had joined Guillermo del Toro's next film, Pacific Rim. He will portray "Sensi".
In 2001, Elba appeared in music videos for Fat Joe, Angie Stone and English rapper Giggs. In 2006, he recorded the four-song EP Big Man for Hevlar Records. He co-produced and performed on the intro to Jay-Z's 2007 album American Gangster. He DJ'd at the 2007 NBA All Star parties at the The Venetian and Ice House Lounge in Las Vegas. Elba appeared in the "Respect My Conglomerate" music video for Busta Rhymes's 2009 Back on My BS album. In July 2009, Elba was the DJ for BET's new series "Rising Icons". Elba announced the release of his first single "Please Be True." Elba is currently working on his second EP, and plans to tour Europe in late 2009. In the August 2009 issue of Essencemagazine, he announced the name of his six-song EP as Kings Among Kings. He released his EP High Class Problems Vol. 1 in the United Kingdom in February 2010. in 2010 he starred in the movie Takers alongside Chris Brown and T.I. as the leader of a gang of professional robbers. In 2011, he performed on the intro to Pharoahe Monch's album W.A.R.