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Luther - Idris Elba interview

Idris Elba as Luther

Interview by Tim Carson

Idris Elba returns for a second series as DCI John Luther and we spoke to him about what he loves about playing the character, the dark nature of the new series and the downside of early starts

How does the second series follow on from the dramatic conclusion to the first series?
Idris Elba:
“It was a very dramatic climax and Luther is just a complete mess following the events of the last series, he feels up against the whole world.

“At the start of the two new specials, we see a new unit formed – the Serious and Serial Crime Unit headed up by DCU Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley), a former adversary, you could call him my nemesis almost.

“Schenk was a really popular character and I think the writer, Neil Cross, wanted to bring him back – well we all wanted him back. So it seemed a logical step to put him in a position where he can actually keep an eye on Luther.

“The structure of the new unit is different from the previous unit. Luther is still a DCI, but he’s a bit more of a team player now because he has to be, under Schenk’s say-so.”

And what happens to Luther’s ally from the last series is DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown)?
Idris Elba:
“At the end of the last series Ripley is demoted to uniform and forgotten as a Custody Sergeant, and I think John felt really guilty about that. So we see him trying to fix that and making an effort to get his partner back in the new unit. I think that John’s guilt is eased a little bit when he sees Justin back on the team.

“It shows Luther has a compassionate side, he does have a heart after all, something else we see more of this year. He’s tough and filled with a lot of demons, but he has absolutely got a heart.

Series one had some gruesome cases and characters is there more of the same in the second series?
Idris Elba:
“Neil Cross definitely knows how to delve into the darkest realms of life. This series sees Luther drawn into the most savage and cruel parts of the criminal world, confronted with challenging cases, I think it gets darker and more intriguing.”
“There’s a great twist in the last two episodes, it just blows your mind. Luther gets drawn in, deeper and darker. Neil’s created some great storylines for viewers to look forward to.”

Presumably Luther’s compelling friendship with Alice Morgan will continue in series two?
Idris Elba:
“Alice is back, she was another favourite character first time around and there is definitely a connection there. Ruth Wilson is great in that role, but I don’t want to say anymore than that, you’ll have to tune in and find out.

The second series has been filmed as two, two-part specials why was that?
Idris Elba:
“It’s a format thing; it gives our audience a different way to watch Luther. I think Luther can be big television specials and episodics. So it’ll be interesting to see how the audience reacts, but we thought we could tell bigger stories in two two-hour specials.”

You were nominated for a Golden Globe was also honoured at the 42nd NAACP Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, how was it to get recognition in the UK and in America?
Idris Elba:
“I’m delighted of course, really pleased about the reaction here and in the US, and it was great the American audiences liked it and really accepted it.

“My taste and brand of drama is set in both worlds, so hopefully, as a producer, part of that hopefully impacts on the drama.”

What do you like about playing Luther?
Idris Elba:
“He’s a dark, very brooding character and that’s always fun to play. I also like that he’s extremely dynamic and fearless and I love that fearlessness about him, there’s nothing he won’t do to try and get the bad guy. You read these fantastic scenes where he does this odd stuff to really mean people and it’s crazy, I love it.”

What’s most challenging?
Idris Elba:
“Getting up at 5.30am every day, ha ha! But seriously, Luther is the most demanding role I’ve ever had in my life, emotionally and physically. I can’t play Luther slouching!”

What do you hope the audience will go away with after seeing the new Luther specials?
Idris Elba:
“I hope they’ll be excited, engrossed and thrilled. Luther takes viewers to places where TV drama rarely goes. It’s an emotional roller coaster, full of unexpected twists and turns. Hopefully, we’re going to knock people out. That’s what we aspire to do, anyway.”

Next interview: Injustice – cast interviews