The many faces of Idris Elba

By Munyaradzi Vomo Time of article published Nov 17, 2011

Share this article:

He may not be as popular as Denzel Washington, nor may he have the looks of Tyson Beckford, but Idris Elba is rising fast to become more than just a handsome actor in Hollywood.

He may be an Englishman, but he doesn’t exude Englishness on screen unless the role dictates that he should. With the crime drama The Wire coming to Mzansi Magic, let’s look at the various faces of the man who plays Stringer Bell, the villain of the show.

If you haven’t seen The Wire but know of Elba’s potential, then you know his character here, a Baltimore gangster, is probably one of his best portrayals yet. Let’s look at other things this “new arrival” has done in the few years since he first cracked it in Hollywood:

American Gangster:

Alongside Denzel Washington who, in one of his best roles yet, portrayed Frank Lucas, Elba featured as Tango, one of Lucas’s trusted men who then becomes too greedy and meets his death as a result. His portrayal of a thug in the 1960s may have given him brief screen time, but it was convincing. He may have had to give fellow actors like Chiwetel Ejiofor the chance to shine, but he didn’t go unnoticed.

Daddy’s Little Girls:

From drug dealer to a struggling divorcé fighting for custody of his three kids, Elba excels in this Tyler Perry flick. There is a lot of hood drama as usual, but Elba manages to bring out the paternal emotions, leaving you buying into the sad storyline.


Not only does he then play a cop in Luther, but Elba goes back home to England and takes his accent with him. If you loved the American accent he aced with the Stringer Bell character, then Luther is going to come as a shock. But if you think of it as one of his many talents then you should not mind. Hey, if they ever need a black Bond, who else can they pick other than this man?

Sometimes In April:

Still on accents, we fly out to Rwanda with this one where Elba plays the role of Augustin, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide who has to face his enemies and forgive them. If you thought Don Cheadle did a great job in Hotel Rwanda, then this movie may just change your mind.


From films inspired by true events to those based on fiction, comic-book fiction for that matter, Elba seems to take them all in stride.

In the Marvel classic Thor, he plays Heimdall, a gatekeeper and seer in Thor’s home galaxy.

It is the last place that you would expect to see him, but when you do, you know he belongs there.


Elba is said to have hinted to Beyoncé, his co-star in this film, that he would like to record an album at some point and would like her advice on that. If Joaquin Phoenix, Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard attempted this why not Elba, right?

Look out for his music alter ego called Driis. Yes, the actor sure has many faces.

It’s as if there is no limit to the number of roles that Idris Elba has played, but the man is only getting warmed up.

For now make a date with him on Mzansi Magic as he navigates the streets of Baltimore as Stringer Bell in The Wire.

lThe Wire airs every Monday at 11pm on Mzansi Magic.

Share this article: