Idris Elba explains his "problem" with Stringer Bell in The Wire 5 years ago

Idris Elba explains his "problem" with Stringer Bell in The Wire

It looks like he probably won't be the next James Bond, but Idris Elba already has more iconic roles under his belt than most actors could dream of.

The 45-year-old actor broke out as a bona fide leading man in the UK with his role as DCI John Luther in the BBC's hit crime drama Luther. But Elba's big break came in the States when he was cast as Baltimore drug kingpin Stringer Bell in HBO's The Wire.


Speaking on JOE's hit interview podcast Unfiltered with James O'Brien - guest hosted by David Lammy MP - the director of Yardie looked back on his casting in the show, and the public perception of Bell.

Idris Elba at the Yardie premiere.

"At the time it was a small role in a TV show; it was a massive opportunity for a) me to come out of poverty, and b) be seen on an HBO show," Elba said. "I don't think it was ever written to be the legacy that it's become."


Reflecting on that legacy, the actor also expressed some concerns over the way the character came to be glorified.

"We're all idolising Stringer Bell, but who are we really idolising?" Elba said. "Are we idolising a smart drug dealer or a dumb narcotics dealer? What are we saying here? Is it okay to pump a community full of heroin, but because you're smart at it that makes you cool?

"That was a problem for me."


Though Elba acknowledged that it wasn't an issue when he was playing the role, in later years he came to have concerns over the way in which Stringer Bell was viewed.

"We celebrate him because he's a drug dealer and we can put him in a box - but oh, by the way, he's learning in school and he's very articulate. The irony of it used to just make me laugh," Elba said.

"The truth of the matter is most drug dealers go to jail at some point in their lives. They get caught.

"It doesn't matter how successful they are. It doesn't matter how good to the community they are. They will end up getting caught because what they're doing is illegal. As much as people celebrated the character, the harsh reality is that you either get shot or go to jail."


Yardie is in cinemas 31 August.