‘We make this show in bite-sizes be­cause it is that dark’

With his iconic coat, fa­mous car and crime-fight­ing ways, John Luther is bor­der­ing on su­per­hero ter­ri­tory. Gemma Dunn meets star Idris Elba

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - WEEKEND TV -

It’s been three long years since TV au­di­ences last caught sight of John Luther — and now he’s back. Trade­mark coat and all. But while an ex­tended pe­riod may prove test­ing for fans, Idris Elba, who plays the iconic DCI, in­sists it’s vi­tal to mak­ing the suc­cess­ful crime drama. “It wouldn’t work, in my per­sonal opin­ion, if we did it year in, year out,” states the ac­tor (46), who has led the BBC One show since its in­cep­tion in 2010.

“It needs to be made into bite-sizes, be­cause it is very dark and for (writer) Neil Cross, the pro­duc­ers and my san­ity, I don’t think we can do this the whole time. And we like it that way.

“The au­di­ence and the fans have grown to know it doesn’t come every year and that we do it slightly dif­fer­ently.”

But aside from its heavy nar­ra­tive, “just get­ting the col­lab­o­ra­tors to­gether, at the right time and in the right space” takes some do­ing, ad­mits Elba.

Which is no sur­prise, given that the show’s lead­ing man is in de­mand both here in the UK and across the pond.

Since we last saw John Luther’s fa­mous Volvo si­dle up to a crime scene, Elba, who has had his name thrown in the hat for Bond, no less, has starred in an end­less list of films, from such hits as Molly’s Game and The Moun­tain Be­tween Us to fan favourites Thor: Rag­narok and Avengers: In­fin­ity War.

The Lon­doner has even found time to pen his own sit­com, In The Long Run, gained act­ing cred­its on Net­flix se­ries Turn Up Char­lie, di­rected his first fea­ture film in Yardie and held down a tri­umphant Ibiza DJ res­i­dency. Phew.

But it’s Luther that’s still, per­haps, his most no­table ap­point­ment to date — the ba­sis from which he has been nom­i­nated nu­mer­ous times for a Prime­time Emmy Award, plus four times for a Golden Globe, win­ning one.

So, it makes sense that Elba couldn’t turn his back on the ge­nius cop.

Repris­ing the tit­u­lar role for a fifth se­ries, the star will find his char­ac­ter caught up in the midst of a new night­mare, as he is once again called to im­merse him­self in the deep­est depths of hu­man de­prav­ity.

While Lon­don’s mon­strous and seem­ingly in­dis­crim­i­nate killings be­come ever more au­da­cious and pub­lic, Luther and new re­cruit DS Cather­ine Hal­l­i­day — played by Bafta win­ner Wunmi Mosaku — face a tan­gle of leads and mis­di­rec­tion that seems de­signed to pro­tect an un­touch­able cor­rup­tion.

“True to the Luther set-up, it just gets more com­plex,” says Elba. “Even though in this par­tic­u­lar sea­son there is one an­tag­o­nist, one mur­derer, so many things fall out of that and it turns into a very com­plex web.

“But what is very spe­cial about this se­ries is it’s four con­sec­u­tive episodes in one movie. It un­folds and it’s pretty scary.” It sounds like a tough shoot. “It’s not fun mak­ing Luther; it’s gru­elling, it’s long hours and, ob­vi­ously, be­cause of the na­ture of it, be­cause it deals with mur­der, it’s quite de­press­ing,” Elba con­fesses.

“It’s tough in the sense that I have to pre­pare my­self for it. We don’t make Luther in the sum­mer. We’re not on hol­i­day hav­ing a good time. You want to make it when it’s cold, as it sets the mood and feel­ing for the type of show it is.”

As for putting his sym­bolic coat back on: “It’s a bit like play­ing a su­per­hero, in a sense.

“Luther doesn’t change his clothes, he’s got the uni­form, and Neil has be­gun to write it like that — Lon­don is like Gotham City, the bad guys are like The Joker and here is this cru­sader char­ac­ter who rolls up in his Volvo. It’s not a Bat­mo­bile, but it does have those char­ac­ter­is­tics.”

The se­ries cer­tainly has a fan­dom that would echo a su­per­hero set-up. Does Elba think it’s the good-guy-bad-guy dy­namic that does it?

“When we first came across John eight years ago, we were at the height of this whole ter­ror cam­paign. The world was com­ing to this place where there was an un­nerv­ing feel­ing that any­thing could hap­pen.

“And John is, of course, fic­tional, but he’s this vig­i­lante po­lice of­fi­cer, go­ing, ‘I’m go­ing to get that bad guy’. He went out of his way to do that and do that un­apolo­get­i­cally.

“I think that just struck a chord in the imag­i­na­tion of au­di­ences, be­cause he’s a good guy, but he will lean on the bad side to fix a wrong. He’s bat­man, with­out the mask and funny ears.

“I’ve played bad guys and just nor­mal good guys and there’s just not as much com­plex­ity within the role. That’s kind of my shtick now.

“I’ve ended up play­ing guys that are very com­plex.”

Luther, BBC One, Tues­day-Fri­day, 9pm

BRAND NEW NIGHT­MARE: Idris Elba is back as DCI Luther

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