Idris Elba’s Luther re­turns for an­other grisly chal­lenge

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - TV - By Frazier Moore

NEW YORK — Idris Elba has many rea­sons for why he keeps com­ing back to “Luther.”

“It’s un­fin­ished busi­ness. It’s fer­tile ground,” he ex­plains. “The char­ac­ter con­tin­ues to chal­lenge me.”

De­tec­tive Chief In­spec­tor John Luther also chal­lenges his fans, who are sure to greet him warmly for this, his fourth run, in the two-hour spe­cial air­ing Thurs­day on BBC Amer­ica.

As usual, “Luther” finds its hero pos­sessed by a grisly mur­der case: a se­rial killer with a can­ni­bal­is­tic bent.

Mean­while, he re­mains haunted by Alice Mor­gan, the tan­ta­liz­ing so­ciopath from Sea­son 1 who es­caped ar­rest by Luther but be­came his twisted con­fi­dante. Con­spic­u­ously miss­ing, her where­abouts un­clear, she re­mains very much on Luther’s mind and a key part of this tale.

Elba calls the demons­be­set Luther “one of the clos­est char­ac­ters in terms of who I am.” It’s a sur­pris­ing claim, since, dur­ing this re­cent in­ter­view, he seems light-hearted in stylish ca­sual wear, a marked con­trast to the glum ex­pres­sion and no-non­sense suit Luther wears.

“I don’t feel like I have to throw on too much of a char­ac­ter to play John Luther,” says Elba, at­tempt­ing to ex­plain him­self. “We shoot in the area I grew up in (East Lon­don), and I really let the writer take me on the jour­ney. It’s the most nat­u­ral­is­tic I can be in a role.”

Even Luther’s dis­tinc­tive walk — a slouch­ing swag­ger, hands jammed in his pock­ets, push­ing for­ward with staunch in­tent — is com­fort­ably de­rived from Elba’s own gait: “I tore my left Achilles, which make my left leg sort of limp — or swag!”

A strap­ping, tow­er­ing pres­ence with lead­ing-man looks, Elba nonethe­less has been able to trans­form him­self pro­foundly for his roles, such as the bru­tal leader of an African rebel army in his re­cent film “Beasts of No Na­tion,” as Nel­son Man­dela in “Man­dela: Long Walk to Free­dom” and as Stringer Bell, the strictly-busi­ness Bal­ti­more drug lord in the HBO se­ries “The Wire.”

No mat­ter what his role, Elba is easy on the eyes.

Asked if he gets weary of his ex­treme hand­some­ness be­ing the fo­cus of me­dia and fans alike, he adopts an al­most sheep­ish ex­pres­sion while hand­ing credit to the cam­era.

“Be­cause I’m an ac­tor, I’ve got that ‘beauty light’ on me,” he in­sists. “In real life, it’s not like that all the time. Some peo­ple go, ‘He’s nice, but he’s not my sort of thing.’ ”

Ac­knowl­edg­ing that too much at­ten­tion to his looks could taint him as just an­other pretty face, he does al­low that “it’s a com­pli­ment, and it’s great, man. I could be de­scribed as ‘ag­gres­sive,’ or ‘strong.’ But ‘sexy’ works, too.” And he laughs heartily.

At 43, Elba has been act­ing for more than 20 years but says he’s only re­cently un­der­stood what drives him as an ac­tor: “I’m a per­son who ab­sorbs a lot, takes in a lot of in­for­ma­tion ev­ery day, and with that comes an urge to let it go,” he says. “As an ac­tor, I get to ex­pel all that stuff by throw­ing it into my char­ac­ters. Be­fore I fig­ured that out, I think I was mo­ti­vated by the dream of be­ing fa­mous. But now I see that I do it be­cause it’s ther­apy, as well.”

Next up is next sum­mer’s “Star Trek Be­yond,” which he shot last sum­mer but can’t talk about be­yond say­ing, “It was fun and dif­fer­ent, es­pe­cially af­ter shoot­ing ‘Luther’ last spring.”

Even now, he isn’t ready to be through with “Luther.”

“The ul­ti­mate goal is to end up with him in a film,” says Elba, who longs to turn him loose on a broader land­scape than Lon­don.

“New York could be an amaz­ing back­drop for John Luther,” says Elba, mo­tion­ing out the win­dow of his Man­hat­tan ho­tel suite.

“I think that’s what could be next for Luther,” he says, purs­ing his lips for a muted explosion. “Movie time!”

ST­EF­FAN HILL/BBC AMER­ICA

Idris Elba plays De­tec­tive Chief In­spec­tor John Luther in a new two-hour spe­cial of BBC Amer­ica’s “Luther.”

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