Idris Elba OBE

  • Idris Elba OBE

    Celebrities, British

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Known for the intensity of his performances, Idris became an international superstar after appearing in the HBO series The Wire. He was nominated for three Golden Globes for his honest portrayal of Nelson Mandela in the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and is also a noted DJ, producer, and rapper.


Idris’s parents were married in Sierra Leone but later moved to Hackney in London, where Idris was born. He was raised in East Ham and took up acting at school in Canning town.

Whilst at school he started a DJ company with some friends but soon left school after securing a place in the National Youth Music Theatre, thanks to a £1,500 Prince’s Trust grant. Idris credits the Prince’s Trust for kick-starting his career and was appointed its Anti-Crime Ambassador in 2009.

Idris had a variety of jobs when he was learning to be an actor. He fitted tyres at a car garage and worked in a cold-call centre; he also appeared in Crimewatch murder reconstructions. At the age of 19 he started working in nightclubs under the DJ nickname Big Driis and by his early twenties was auditioning for television parts.

His first acting role came in 1995 in a television series called Bramwell. He also joined the cast of soap opera Family Affairs, had a small part as a gigolo in an episode of Absolutely Fabulous, and appeared in the television serial Ultraviolet and later in Dangerfield. It was soon after this that Idris Elba crossed the Atlantic and settled in New York City.

After arriving in America Idris played Achilles in a stage production of Troilus and Cressida and, after a supporting role on a 2001 episode of Law & Order, he landed a starring role in the HBO drama The Wire. His relationship with HBO continued when he played Captain Augustin Muganza in Sometimes in April, an HBO film about the Rwandan genocide.

It was around this time that Idris began pursuing his musical ambitions and released the four-song EP Big Man for Hevlar Records. The following year, in 2007, he co-produced and performed on the intro to Jay-Z’s 2007 album American Gangster.

Idris’s film career began to blossom in 2007 with his first role coming as the lead in the film Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls. He also appeared in 28 Weeks Later and This Christmas (which brought in nearly $50 million at the box office in 2007).

In NBC’s The Office, Idris played Charles Miner, a rival to regional manager Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell, and in 2009 starred as the lead role in the 6-part BBC television show Luther. For his part in the show, Idris won the Award for Best Actor in a Series, Mini-Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television at the 69th Golden Globe Awards.

Idris has starred in a number of Hollywood blockbusters; he played Heimdall in Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 film Thor, portrayed Captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s science-fiction movie Prometheus, and depicted Nelson Mandela in the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, for which he spent a night locked in a cell on Robben Island. The role earned him a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama.

In 2014 Idris presented the series Journey Dot Africa with Idris Elba on BBC Radio 2, exploring all types of African music. He was also presented with a MOBO Inspiration Award in this year.


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