Idris Elba After The Wire

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British actor Idris Elba first made our radar beep when he was recruited by HBO to play erudite thug Russell "Stringer" Bell in The Wire. But that was nine years ago and the East Londoner has since flown home to show us what else he’s got. Last year, Elba starred as a troubled chief inspector in BBC1’s six-part detective drama Luther. He was so darkly compelling we almost didn’t mind that the role was a little cookie cutter. We thought the series showed promise, so it’s fantastic news that a second season will air later this year.

If you feel Elba-starved in the meantime, there are couple of things you can do: head to the cinema and watch him play Nordic god Heimdall in Thor, or flick over to Sky Atlantic this Thursday at 10.15pm for Sometimes in April, a fittingly bloody and bleak retelling of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Elba plays Augustin, a Hutu soldier married to a Tutsi woman. They have three children and the entire family are marked out for extermination. We flip from scenes of mass slaughter to the tribunals and emotional fallout ten years later. Its most gut-wrenching sequences--like the massacre of Catholic schoolgirls--are butted against the bizarrely clunky portrayal of politicians in Washington who refused to intervene.

Elba may have got Hollywood’s attention (Thor’s director Kenneth Branagh called him up personally to request he take the part), but the 38-year-old spent the decade before The Wire bouncing between bit parts in everything from The Bill to Absolutely Fabulous. It wasn’t until 2001, years after he’d decided to relocate to the US, that Elba turned up in an episode of Law and Order and made HBO take notice. And it was during his stint as the network’s most complicated gangster that we fell for Elba. You couldn‘t call yourself a US TV aficionado unless you knew all about the British guy in The Wire and bored on about him in front of your friends.

So what’s next for Elba? Word is that he’ll feature in Ridley Scott’s new sci-fi thriller Prometheus, though it’s not known who he’ll play, and it isn't out until 2012. Fortunately, you won’t have to wait that long for more Luther. In fact, you can watch this stylish and unsettling teaser right now:

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