Before he smoldered on the small screen as a tortured detective in "Luther," before he battled monsters in "Pacific Rim," and before he attempted to bring order to Baltimore's drug business in "The Wire," Idris Elba was a regular guy just trying to get by. And that sometimes meant selling drugs.
In the October issue of GQ, a very candid Elba opens up about his spotty past, when he worked as a doorman at New York comedy club Caroline's.
"I was running with cats. I mean, I was DJ'ing, but I was also pushing bags of weed," he says. "I was doing my work. I had to. I know that sounds corny, but this is the truth."
Now, Elba doesn't need to scrape by, thanks to his breakout role as Stringer Bell on the HBO drama pushed Elba from an audition-chasing actor to a rising star. But the humble Brit insists that anybody could've played the part.
"Listen, I think I brought Stringer to life my way, but 'The Wire' isn't a classic because of Stringer Bell," he says. "'The Sopranos' was a classic because of Tony Soprano."
If Stringer isn't the key to "The Wire," his John Luther certainly is to "Luther." He recalls filming the pilot during a time of emotional upheaval, when he learned that he was not the father of a boy he called his own.
"'Luther' came at a time where, you know, it was gaga therapy for me, man," he explains.
As difficult as that experience was, Elba didn't let it knock him out. "I've not been an angel in my life, either — do you know what I'm saying? So to a certain extent, what goes around comes around."
It's a philosophy Stringer Bell would approve.
"Luther" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on BBC America.