As the child of a Syrian father and a Ghanian mother, the Afro-British cinema and television actor Idris Elba built his reputation as a performer in sitcoms and cable dramas during the 1990s and early 2000s before segueing into Hollywood movies in 2005.

Born in London on September 6, 1972, and raised in the Hackney borough of that city (in the northeast quadrant), Elba pursued acting as a high-school student, at the behest of a drama teacher. Although his film, television, and stage work officially commenced around 1992, Elba's premier credited role arrived in 1995, with a supporting role on the episode of the farcical British series Absolutely Fabulous, entitled "Sex."

Many supporting roles on British television followed, including such series as Bramwell, The Bill, Degrees of Error, The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, and The Governor. Elba grew deeply frustrated, however, over the seemingly irrepressible tendency of British casting directors to peg him in supporting roles.


"Back in London," he later recalled, "I was always just going to be the best friend, or the crook or the detective on the side." When Elba could take no more of this, he immigrated to the United States. A couple of years of inactivity ensued, but after a supporting turn on a 2001 episode of Law & Order, Elba landed a starring role on a 2002 HBO cop drama, The Wire.
In that part -- Elba's best-known and highest-profiled to date -- he plays pusher "Stringer" Bell, the second in command to drug-dealing kingpin Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris). Elba immediately became notorious for daring to impart a pronounced level of affability to Stringer (despite the character's profession); as a result, the role attained widespread popularity with viewers and helped put the series on the map. Elba stayed on the series through its first three seasons.

Elba then transitioned into big-screen roles; his most prominent turns included that of Rev. Frank, a Southern Baptist minister and gospel music hopeful threatened by the arrival of an old friend who challenges his pastoral position, in Rob Hardy's powerful spiritual drama The Gospel (2005); Augustin Muganza, a Hutu captain grappling with the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in the mind-blowing HBO historical drama Sometimes in April (2005); and a scientist and partner of Hilary Swank's professional debunker of religious myths in Stephen Hopkins' gothic, biblically themed horror picture The Reaping (2007).

In 2006, Elba also signed on as the lead of the seriocomedy Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls (2007), playing Monty, a blue-collar mechanic who falls in love with a six-figure attorney (Gabrielle Union) and finds the relationship threatened by the re-arrival of his ex-wife. He also joined the supporting cast of Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's 28 Weeks Later, the horror-themed sequel to Danny Boyle's 2002 zombie picture 28 Days Later.


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