On The Small Screen
Like many of his British acting brethren, Idris Elba cut his teeth in UK television – in his case, beginning with the auspicious role of ‘Pizza Delivery Man’ in the series Space Precinct, in 1994. Follow-up parts included guest spots on dramas such The Bill and London’s Burning, as well as comedies like 2Point4 Children and the highly popular Absolutely Fabulous. Elba then made the leap to U.S. television screens in shows such as Hack, Soul Food, Law & Order and CSI: Miami.
It was The Wire, in 2002, which really brought Idris Elba to the point of international recognition, though – with his 37 episode stint as Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell bringing him an NAMIC (National Association For Multi-Ethnicity In Communications) award nomination, within this multi-award winning, critically acclaimed series. The drama gave audiences their first real chance to see the actor develop a character over an extended period of time, and his three-season arc saw Stringer Bell emerge as a central figure in the show.
With the premise of The Wire being the exploration of various city institutions and their respective relationships to law enforcement, Stringer Bell was introduced as second-in-command of one of the most powerful drug-dealing organizations in Baltimore – the Barksdales – headed by his childhood friend, Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris). The first three seasons of the show saw Bell develop as an ambitious and influential leader within the Baltimore business community – taking methodical steps to merge the Barksdales criminal activities with more legitimate commercial interests.
After departing The Wire, the profile of the roles played by Idris Elba on the small screen increased dramatically. In 2005, he appeared in the critically acclaimed television movie Sometimes In April. This harrowing depiction of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide centred on two brothers – Honore Muganza (played by Oris Erhuero) and Augustin Muganza (played by Elba). Honore is working for a popular radio station, while Augustin is a Captain in the Rwandan Army. Their different positions within the community, and the different choices they’ve made within their family, bring the growing, brutal violence of the conflict into sharp relief. Sometimes In April is noted for its refusal to shy away from the gruesomeness and shocking nature of the genocide, as well as the strength of the performances from its entire cast.