Following last fall’s reveal that FOX was considering an American version of the hit BBC detective drama “Luther,” which Idris Elba starred in, the network announced this morning that it has now officially ordered a pilot for the proposed series, created by Neil Cross, who will work with Fox on the USA adaptation. But, the pilot order is CONTINGENT on whether the show’s producers are able to put together a solid cast to match the British original.
So, I thought, let’s help them out, and give them some ideas. First, you should know that Idris Elba is on board to executive produce, NOT to star in the American version, so you may as well cross him off your list of considerations. The good news is that this vacancy opens the door for a new actor to take on the title role – we can only assume he’ll also be black; although the original series wasn’t written specifically for a black man, so anything is possible.
However, assuming a black actor is cast as Luther in the American version, who’d be your choice for the part? I also have to wonder if the main cast of characters will also transfer, and if so, who would you cast as Alice Morgan, the nutty character played by Ruth Wilson, who was a significant part of the first season of the original?
The starring role could be a career-making role for the right actor – especially if it’s a fresh face. Has American television ever seen a specifically black character like John Luther? The genius, emotionally-impulsive detective tormented by humanity’s darker side, complicatedly-drawn and incisively brought to life on screen as by Mr Elba.
I can’t think of anything close to what “Luther” brings – what those of us who are fans of the series (especially here in the USA), really appreciate about it, since that kind of a complex character (who also happens to be black) in a detective series, is painfully lacking on American television, and has been for a long time. And we have to look across the pond to find him.
Granted, Luther wasn’t originally scripted as a black man. Luther could’ve been any race, color, ethnicity, etc. Idris just happens to be black, and his *blackness* doesn’t really have any influence on the individual story strands of the series, or overall episodes – something that I think also adds to its appeal.
His skin color was never really a character, or a deliberate focus in an episode of the series (you’ll recall that Idris Elba has long stressed that he isn’t necessarily interested in being a “black actor,” or in playing “black characters,” or starring in “black films” that tell “black stories.” He just wants to be seen as any other actor in any other film or TV series).
Idris has already pretty much said that he won’t be returning for another season of the BBC series, because, first, he really wants to take the character from the small screen to the big screen next, producing and starring in a “Luther” feature film. And secondly, he wants to do other things. So, it makes sense that he won’t also star in the American version.
It’s actually a perfect set-up if you ponder it. “Luther” makes its American debut, introducing the character to a broader American audience, which will likely only assist with the packaging of a “Luther” feature film, which is Elba’s ultimate goal.
Keep in mind that, even though many of us here are fans of “Luther,” and have been following the series since its first season 3 years ago, it’s still not as popular a show as you’d think, in the USA. A lot of us haven’t even heard of it. And I mean black people specifically. So there’s still room for it to grow as more folks discover it. If you haven’t seen the original series, maybe this news of a USA remake will inspire you to do so.
But again, if you were to make a short list of actors you’d love to see star in the potential Fox “Luther” series, what black actors would be on it?
The last time I asked this question, Jeffrey Wright’s name was the most mentioned. Of course Jeffrey Wright in anything is almost always a good choice. But who else? Let’s come up with 5 solid names. You never know who’s reading these things. I know lots of industry folk read this site, and, on occasion, I’ve been contacted with inquiries on actor recommendations for projects – specifically unknown actors with promise. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the actor cast is indeed a relative unknown. I actually wouldn’t mind that. In coming up with names, you’d have to consider a few things, for example, how busy the actor currently is (the busier they are, the less likely they’ll be candidates – especially if they work primarily in feature film). Let’s come up with some interesting, unexpected names. Don’t just mention the most obvious just because they’re celebrities.
And even if you can’t come up with a name for the title character, feel free to take a stab at the secondaries, like Alice Morgan. Or even Luther’s ex.
I do wonder where exactly the series will be set; what city? New York and Los Angeles are the most obvious, but setting it in some area that no one expects, making the location its own character in the series, could be a fresh touch.
By the way, “Luther” is streaming on Netflix right now, every season. So if you still haven’t seen any of it, and have a Netflix streaming account, check it out!