Idris Elba Explains Why Luther is His Bond (and a Fictional Hero for Today's Real World)

John Luther returns Dec. 17, when Idris Elba puts the coat back on for a one-night event on BBC America. But if Elba has his way, this won’t be the last we see of the British detective.

As Elba reminded the audience after a screening of the Luther special in New York City Wednesday, he’s long been vocal about the idea of taking the character to the big screen. He went as far as to dub the special — which finds Luther returning from a leave of absence to help catch a cannibalistic serial killer terrorizing London and discover the truth about some unrelated shocking news — “the very, very early sort of pilot for the film.”

“The idea is that we’ve obviously distilled [the series] via the seasons to the place where we feel like we can tell the Luther story in a succinct package, and this represents a TV version of that,” he said. “I actually think that we could do a film version of it. In truth, candidly, everyone keeps talking about Bond and all that nonsense. … Not to sit here like I’m ignoring it, but the truth is, Luther is my Bond. … A central character that gets himself into a lot of s–t — no reinvention of the wheel there.”

Related: Idris Elba’s ‘Luther’ Return Gets December Premiere: Our Wish List

Like series creator/writer Neil Cross, Elba sees no expiration date for Luther. “Like in this world that we live in right now, we’re all sort of looking for someone to speak up and go, like, ‘What the f—?’ And Luther is that guy. Albeit drama, TV, whatever, but that guy stands up and goes, ‘What the f–?’ And I like that about Luther, and I represent that. It’s a very weird time,” he said, alluding to the recent Paris attacks and Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino. “We’re all sitting here going, ‘Wow. Somebody’s gonna get shot any moment.’ But to have someone that just goes, ‘Don’t worry about it, guys. I’m gonna put on my gray coat and my red tie and I’ll take take care of this.’ F–k it, let’s have that. So if I can play that part forever, [I’ll] do it.”


BBC America asked fans to tweet questions for Elba, and the Q&A moderator, Entertainment Weekly’s Amy Wilkinson, revealed that the one asked most was, “How did you get to be such a badass?” After a laugh and admitting that he wasn’t sure how to define the term, Elba said calling someone “badass,” to him, meant that you respect him or her on multiple levels. “‘That guy’s an entertainer, that guy’s an influencer, that guy’s got something to say.’ The truth is, I was never born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I realized that by my talent, I actually could influence. I could say some s–t. I can just put something out there, ultimately,” he said. “When you come from a sort of underprivileged background, often times you feel a little overwhelmed by your education, or your lack of. In my growing up, my mum and dad had good education but [weren’t] scholars. But they were achievers. They came from Africa, they moved to England, they had a child, they had a job, and they had a home. They had a council flat . … In America, we would call that the projects. … Long story short, I’m a product of my mum and dad’s journey from Africa to here. So if that makes me a badass now, by way of the fact that my mum and dad encouraged their child that landed in England to go ahead and live [his] dreams, be an actor, be vocal, be stylish, be musical, be whatever . … then great. Thank you very much. I’ll take that.”

He joked that he doesn’t do all of those things well, but he does do all them. He’s even finding a way to combine them. Just as he released an album, Idris Elba Presents mi Mandela, inspired by filming Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and the loss of Mandela and his father, he’s recorded an album, Murdah Loves John (The John Luther Character Album), that is now available for pre-order on iTunes ahead of its Dec. 15 release. “I designed all the tracks to be like if you could watch every episode of Luther turned down. … and just watch it with the music, that you would still get the vibe,” he said. “It would feel like six music videos all at once.”

As for whether we’ll ever get to hear an Idris Elba album inspired by 007, Wilkinson said she promised Elba she wouldn’t bring up Bond. He, however, couldn’t stop himself. Asked at one point if he could ever imagine transporting Luther out of London, he answered: “Ultimately with Luther, I’m just gonna say it, similarly to the way Bond [pause for laughter], similarly to the way every film franchise character uses a city to be the backdrop, I think what we do with Luther and London is transferable to other cities. There’s no doubt. In the way that my character gets away with wearing the same clothes every single episode [pause for more laughter], you buy into that. So if you buy into the idea that he falls into any city, wearing the same clothes, but the city still gets the same sort of exposure that London gets, it will work.”

Luther airs Dec. 17 at 9 p.m. on BBC America.