Idrissa Akuna Elba was born on September 6, 1972, in the Hackney section of East London, England. An only child of Sierra Leonean and Ghanaian descent, Elba eventually attended the National Youth Music Theatre’s training programs.
He landed a number of British television roles and worked with his father in a car factory before eventually making his way to America. He settled in Brooklyn, New York, and Jersey City, New Jersey, working as a doorman at the comedy club Carolines and DJing while struggling to make ends meet.
Idris Elba got his major break starring as crime boss “Stringer” Bell on several seasons of the highly acclaimed HBO drama The Wire. Other parts followed, though Elba later lamented that he was continuing to get lots of offers for gangster roles during this time.
The statuesque Elba transitioned to a big-screen career as well, landing film roles in a variety of genres. He starred as a mechanic in director Tyler Perry’s feature Daddy’s Little Girls (2007), a general in the zombie-laden 28 Weeks Later (2007) and a devoted husband opposite Beyoncé Knowles in Obsession (2009). Sci-fi/fantasy beckoned to the actor as well, as seen with his roles as Norse god Heimdall in Marvel Comics’ Thor (2011), directed by Kenneth Branagh, and as ship captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012). Other films on Elba’s roster from this period include This Christmas (2007) and RocknRolla (2008).
‘Luther’ and ‘Mandela’
Elba also continued his TV work over the years with series like The Office, The Big C and The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. The actor has received multiple Emmy Award nominations and won a 2012 Golden Globe Award for his lead role on the BBC America series Luther, portraying a driven yet tortured detective whose conduct brings up ethical issues.
In the summer of 2013, Elba was seen as Stacker Pentecost in Guillermo del Toro’s robotics-and-monsters flick Pacific Rim. That fall, he earned raves for his portrayal of President Nelson Mandela in the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, starring opposite Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela. The actor earned Oscar buzz and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance as the famed South African activist. (He lost the Globe to Matthew McConaughey, who won for his lead role in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club.)
In 2014, Elba starred in the thriller No Good Deed, directed by Sam Miller and co-starring Empire’s Taraji Henson. The following year he played a military commandant on the acclaimed Netflix drama Beasts of No Nation and continued his starring role on Luther, earning Golden Globe nominations for both. In 2016, Elba appeared in several films including A Hundred Streets, Bastille Day and Star Trek Beyond. He went on to portray Roland Deschain/The Gunslinger in The Dark Tower (2017), based on Stephen King’s series and co-starring Matthew McConaughey.
Elba has continued to spin as a DJ internationally. He’s also performed as a singer and rapper, going by the name (Big) Driis.
- Idrissa Akuna Elba Biography and Profile (Biography)