Idris Elba: ‘The Wire’ Didn’t Lead to ‘Remarkable’ Roles, I Wasn’t ‘Pushed’ as an Actor

"Most people thought I was American during 'The Wire' and then when they realized I was not, I suddenly stuck out like a sore thumb."
Idris Elba in The Wire
Idris Elba as Stringer Bell in "The Wire"

According to Idris Elba, his career was hanging by a thread after “The Wire.”

The Emmy nominee revealed that he “stuck out like a sore thumb” after viewers realized he was a British actor playing a Baltimore drug dealer on the critically acclaimed HBO series.

“Most people thought I was American during ‘The Wire’ and then when they realized I was not, I suddenly stuck out like a sore thumb. I felt more scrutinized,” Elba told The Guardian. “I was enjoying success, but I don’t think I was being pushed or stretched as an actor.”

The “Luther” star continued, “I don’t think I was getting roles that were like, remarkable. I could feel that there was a glass ceiling coming. I could sort of see the smudges on it.”

In fact, one could say Elba’s post-“Wire” career was like a 40-degree day. Elba previously told Esquire that he “identified” a lot with his character Stringer Bell and that it was difficult to part ways with the character.

“He was an underdog, right? I was an underdog. And the feeling that I’m not the guy, I’m the guy next to the guy. Or, I’m not the guy yet, but I could be the guy,” Elba explained. “I always had a fear that I would end up like Stringer Bell. I always felt like, damn, this guy was going places, he was fucking smart, everyone liked him, and he got moped out. I always feel like, that could be me. I could get run over, I could get stabbed, I could get shot. I could get an illness. Nothing’s permanent.”

Elba portrayed Stringer Bell on “The Wire” from 2002 to 2004. Series creator David Simon claimed Elba was “not happy” when he was killed off in the series right when “when people were really starting to discover what a leading man he was,” as Simon said to the Associated Press.

“And I remember talking with him over the script and saying, ‘Idris, you’re going to have movie roles. You’re going to be an A-lister. People are going to get a load of this death; they’re going to acquire this story arc in retrospect — this is your calling card, man,'” Simon told Elba at the time. “‘You’re going to do fine.'”

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