Idris Elba Talks Luther Prequel, Playing Nelson Mandela & Thor: The Dark World

Idris Elba returns to BBC America next month for the third installment of “Luther,” a role which has earned him a Golden Globe. And he’s ready to take on the character again – but this time, in a prequel film.

“The time is really ripe for ‘Luther’ to turn into a film… and our intention was always to take it to a film… where we can really explore what makes this person, this man tick and really understand Luther or go on more and more weirder and experimental journeys with him, but using the film medium,” Idris said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday, to promote the September 3 return of the miniseries.

Neil Cross, the show’s creator, reportedly told attendees at the Edinburgh TV Festival that he has written a script for a prequel film about the early days of Luther, before he became the dark, super detective. The film would end where the first season of the show began, per a report from Britain’s Telegraph newspaper.

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“I think the origin story — it’s a classic superhero type set up and I’ve always likened Luther to a superhero just because, as television makers, we bend the rules so much,” Idris continued. “It’d be interesting to understand where that came from and how did we end up in that first episode on Season 1 would be great, would be very exciting. But then, beyond that, to pick up after Season 3 and figure out what happens next, you know?”

Beyond his return to his Golden Globe-winning role, Idris has a host of projects on his plate. He recently hit theaters in Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim,” which has raked in more than $99 million at the box office since its July 12 release. He also wrapped the Nelson Mandela biopic, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” (he plays the South African leader), and “Thor: The Dark World,” which sees him playing an Asgardian – Heimdall.

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“When I’m shooting all of this, it’s all out of sequence by the time it all comes out, so this year looks incredibly busy for me because they’re all coming out at the same time,” he said, when asked how he balances his hefty workload. “And really, the balance is just sort of being able to not over saturate myself in terms of all these films and stuff coming out at the same time and also continuing my career with stuff that may come out later.”

When asked during the call about which character in his current slate of projects bit into him like Luther, Idris said playing the South African leader was consuming.

“Mandela was definitely a very, very challenging role for me in a way that Luther is. It’s very absorbing,” he said. “And doing Mandela probably… a year ago now and then doing Luther, they were both very, very complex characters and sort of demanding of my time. But, I guess this what I do for my living and then I enjoy the process of jumping from one person to another.”

The actor went to South Africa, where “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” was filmed, six weeks prior to shooting for preparations, but he avoided getting too close to those who knew the man well.

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“I tended not to meet people that knew him too personally just because I wanted to stay away from too many anecdotes that colored … my performance,” he said. “But you know, everybody has a Mandela story in South Africa, that’s for sure, and I was inundated with a wealth of information.”

At one point during the interview, Idris said he takes his work home with him to a degree – including the heavy weight of a character like Luther. Asked if that helped inspire him to take on fun projects like “Pacific Rim,” and “Thor: The Dark World,” the Brit suggested he takes on those films as a type of career diversity — and, for his pre-teen daughter.

“I like to look at those films and be in those films just because my daughter, who’s 11, she loves that type of film,” he said. “If I can get an opportunity to play something that’s fun, well, you know, Stacker Pentecost [from ‘Pacific Rim’] wasn’t particularly fun, but that type of film and even ‘Thor,’ it’s not so much that it’s fun to actually make, but they’re very different compared to Luther or Mandela which [are] quite serious bits of work. I kind of like the idea of having all of that on my resume.”

Plus, the big screen films have the added bonus of being projects his daughter can see, although Idris admitted his daughter secretly watched his BBC America show.

“Believe it or not you know, she’s actually snuck away and watched the first two seasons,” he said.

“I’m like, ‘You’re not supposed to be watching it!’” he said. “She’s like, ‘I know!’… But what can I say. She’s a big fan of it. … She hasn’t seen the third season yet.”

“Luther” returns for its third installment beginning September 3 and continuing on Sept. 4, 5 and 6 at 10 PM on BBC America.

-- Jolie Lash

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