Watch: Idris Elba Explains Why Stringer Bell Was Such an Important Role

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele
Idris Elba
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Idris Elba is becoming a veteran right before our eyes. It seems like just yesterday he burst onto the scene playing the sexy and complicated Stringer Bell in The Wire. 

His recent video interview with the New York Times allowed him to reflect on some of his most significant roles.


"I consider every character my new therapist, and I want them to take me somewhere," Elba explained.

He talked about how he admired the moves that Stringer Bell was trying to make in his life, and how that paralleled the hopes and aspirations that Elba had for his own life.

"Stringer Bell was therapy in a very interesting part of my life. It was an entry point to my career in America. Stringer had these massive ambitions, and he was going through this transition," Elba said. "So I got to release out a lot of stuff via that character."

His most recent role as the head of a child militia group in Beast of No Nations was also an impactful experience. Elba said that he was hesitant to take the role at first because of all the perverse issues explored in the film about child soldiers, torture, child molestation, sexual assault, etc.


"There were so many dark issues explored with my character that I just thought, 'Can I really pull it across? Can I pull it off?' " he said. "I've got children. I felt very uncomfortable with being associated with a film that had a character like that. But I realize that my purpose in this world as an artist is to leave an impression."

He had just had another child when he began filming, and thus his identity as a dad affected him, too.


"With [the role as] Commandment, I did exactly the same. I literally just had a son. And here I was doing a film about child soldiers. I can't watch a movie about kids crying without me crying. Let alone be in a movie and watch a kid go through torture," he said.

He also touched on how race works in movie castings, making the point that characters that are meant to be white are never defined racially.


"You read a script; it says, 'Black man, tall'; and then it says, 'Leading man,' " Elba said. "And I'm like 'What?' What color is [the leading man]? Blue?"

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Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.

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