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November 2007
An Exclusive Interview with Idris Elba

An Exclusive Interview with Idris Elba

By Wilson Morales

November 19, 2007

2007 has been a great year for Idris Elba. Since he left his role as Stringer Bell from HBO’s critically acclaimed original series ‘The Wire’, Elba has been getting calls and scripts that landed him lead roles in ‘The Gospel’ for Rob Hardy and the HBO film ‘Sometimes in April’. This year alone, Elba has been seen in no less than five films with roles in ‘The Reaping’, ’28 Weeks Later’, “Tyler Perry’s Daddy Little Girls’, ‘American Gangster’, and his most current film, ‘This Christmas’.

Coming up for Elba next year are ‘The No.1 Detective Agency’ with Jill Scott, a remake of the horror film ‘Prom Night’, Guy Ritchie’s RockNRolla, and ‘The Human Contract’, which is written and directed by Jada Pinkett-Smith.

In ‘This Christmas’, Elba plays Quentin Whitfield, a musician who comes home after four years as the rest family (Delroy Lindo, Loretta Devine, Regina King, Sharon Leal, Mekhi Phifer, Columbus Short, Chris Brown, Laz Alonzo, Lauren London, Keith Robinson, David Banner, Ricky Harris, and Jessica Strous) meets up for Christmas. As the siblings come home for the first time in years with plenty of baggage and as the Christmas tree is trimmed and lights are hung, secrets are revealed and the Whitfields joins together to discover the true meaning of family.

In speaking exclusively with blackfilm.com, Elba talks about his character, his love for music, and his upcoming films.

What is it from this character that you played that you can take away with?

Idris Elba: Actually, Quentin stuck with me for a while because of the music element to the character. The fact that he was a traveling man and the fact that he is so committed to his music that he won’t see his family and whatnot, I took that away because I have aspirations in music and it does take a lot of time and focus and energy to get it right. So I took that away with me from that character. Of course, just the experience of working with that cast was like…I’m spoiled. It was so good and a great experience.

Do you play the sax or was that someone playing it on-screen?

IE: No, I don’t play the sax. I had a few lessons beforehand but it’s very tough to pull it off for the film.

Within the film, Quentin, being the oldest, doesn’t have a liking towards Joe, who’s his mom’s current boyfriend, yet he was away for so long. Why do you think your character has this anger towards the man who keeps his mom happy?

IE: His resentment towards Joe is more about his longing to see his dad and have his dad take his rightful place in the household. Joe, as far as he’s concerned, is a barrier between that happening. He’s having a conversation with his mom and he’s trying to remind her that his daddy was a good man and ‘Why are you putting this man in front of him?’ With the whole Joe thing, he’s buried how hurt he is about his father not being there.

With each film that you do, you learn something different from each director. What did you learn from Preston Whitmore?

IE: Having written the screenplay as well as direct the film, Preston has a really good handle on how it should be done. He was a little precious with the words but he trusted the actors to do our jobs. I was impressed with the fact that he had written this really wonderful script and that’s admirable. Not many people can do that.

On top of the work you’ve done this year, you have a slew of films coming out next year. Let’s start of with ‘The No. 1 Detective Agency’? What role do you play there?

IE: I went to Africa to film that. Jill Scott is the lead in the film. Anthony Minghella is the director and it was a good treat. I play someone shady, this African businessman that is in the middle of one of the storylines that Jill Scott’s character is trying to figure out. She plays an African detective from a small village. It looks great. I’ve seen the pictures and it looks fantastic and Jill Scott does her thing.

Did you see her in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?

IE: Yes. I went and saw that. I definitely went to support that and I had a fun time watching that. I’m a big fan of Tasha Smith who played my wife in ‘Daddy’s Little Girls’. She’s great and fantastic in the movie and hats off for Tyler for trying to tackle a real subject that translate to everybody.

There’s a also the remake of ‘Prom Night’. What will you add to it that’s different from the original?

IE: I haven’t seen it yet but the way we did it, it’s a clever thriller. It does have its slasher element to it because it’s a horror film, but it really has slow-burner thriller moments. The actors are very good. I think it will be a Prom Night for the younger generation and they are going to love that film.

What’s your role in Guy Ritchie’s RockNRolla film?

IE: I play this character who is… myself and Gerard Butler of ‘300’ and we’re partners and we are in the middle of this moneymaking scheme in London which involves real estate and a bunch of gangs and the money goes missing and it starts to circle around. It’s a good script and very funny and I was back home in London doing it and speaking my own accent.

How good is your accent? Is it a challenge not speaking your native tongue?

IE: No, if I have to do an American accent, I work hard towards it. It has to be right and it has to be real. I’m very fortunate to be allowed to work, so if I’m going to an accent, I have to do it right.

I also see that you will be starring in ‘The Human Contract’, which will be directed by Jada Pinkett-Smith. What’s the story about?

IE: I can’t say too much about it, but it is very good and Jada has also written it. Overbrook Entertainment is one of the producers of the film.

What else is down the road for you?

IE: Well, I’m in negotiations for two other films. One is a film called ‘Obsession’, which is a twist on the ‘Fatal Attraction’ story and I might be doing this heist movie called ‘Bone Deep’. It’s a big heist film with lots of action. With the strike happening, everything is up in the air.

Have you ever been approached to use any of your music for films?

IE: Absolutely. I sung a song that will be on the ‘Prom Night’ soundtrack. It’s called ‘This is what you let me know’. It’s a hip hop song. I have a virtual artist, a cartoon character called Mr. Meinnit that’s singing the song and I’m really excited. As I move forward, with most of my films , I’m going to try to get on the soundtrack if not executive produce the soundtrack myself.

Do you have any favorite soundtracks?

IE: ‘Love Jones’ soundtrack is fantastic. The song that Lauren Hill sang on it is crazy! The soundtrack era has taken a beating. No one is doing that well, but I could reinvent now. With my background as a DJ, I have a good handle on the climate. As a DJ, I have to read an audience as soon as they walk.

Why should anyone see ‘This Christmas’?

IE: Because they are no corny moments. The acting is really good. There isn’t a moment where we are ashamed of ourselves. You’ll have a good time watching this movie and you can relate.

‘THIS CHRISTMAS’ opens on November 21, 2007



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