Idris Elba covers the new issue of Esquire ahead of the release of The Dark Tower. During the interview, when he’s talking about his series, Idris Elba: Fighter, and training to be a professional kickboxer, this is how he describes the experience:
"I could have been sitting in a comfortable place and earning the dough, going, I wish, I wish. But my way of being a popular male actor is to say, 'Dudes, if I can do it, you can f-cking do it.' "
Not that I want to be in the business of disagreeing with Idris Elba but… I don’t think they can do what Idris can do. Sorry.
But the reason why Idris was kickboxing and breaking the land speed record was because he was struggling with the death of his father. Not unlike Oscar Isaac, who is struggling with the death of his mother. Idris, like Oscar who named his son after his mother, Idris too ended up naming his son Winston after his father. Oscar chose to channel his grief into his Hamlet, confronting death through art. Idris chose to confront death by challenging fear, because he says he felt like a “robot” afterwards, “out of touch with reality”:
"I had forgotten what it is to feel that burn on your tongue, when your adrenaline is going so much and you're in fight or flight.
The follow-up question I would have asked though is whether or not that adrenaline is just a replacement for the numbness as an avoidance of grief. Especially since, as the writer, Maximillian Potter, reveals, Idris kinda challenges him at the start of the interview.
Almost immediately, Elba is the one doing the interviewing. "I think my life is pretty well documented," he tells me. "If you look me up, you're gonna find some sh-t." He rests his hands on the table, fingertips pressed together professorially; his eyes are locked on mine. "And that must be—not disheartening but discouraging for a journalist." He pauses. I wait. He continues: "Like, How the f-ck do I approach this to get anything that no one else has read before? What is that approach?" He takes a sip of Johnnie Walker Black and Diet Coke and tilts his head to the side, never dropping his stare.
That’s Idris, basically telling a journalist that there are no original questions because he’s been asked all the questions already. I agree. But that only happens when the conversation is one-sided, which is how it works with celebrities. That’s also why the follow-ups are where you find fresh information – if they allow time for it. And certainly not a question about Bond. Which comes up in this article but only in the context of what NOT to ask Idris. I think the internet probably ruined that dream for all of us. We have only ourselves to blame.
What I found most interesting about this profile is the mention of The Office as a “turning point” in his career. Don’t you think that the most common answer if you asked the question, “What was the turning point in Idris Elba’s career?”, it would be Stringer Bell, The Wire? It was apparently the seven episodes he did on The Office that actually started the momentum that’s led to where we are now. Let’s quickly revisit that:
That line delivery is PERFECT, non? I love these kinds of lookbacks. And I kinda want to pitch this to Duana for the next episode of Show Your Work – more examples of unexpected roles and work decisions like Idris' in The Office that end up becoming career “turning points”.
Click here to read the full article on Idris Elba in Esquire. Or just go look at the pictures. The one of him wearing a housecoat walking down the hall in flip-flops, OHMYGOD.