The old adage of art imitating life rings true for many, including actor Idris Elba.
“I did a lot of things, some things I’m not proud of,” says Elba considering his path before landing his role as drug dealer Stringer Bell on HBO’s “The Wire.” To the surprise of some, Elba was not always viewed as the “sexiest man alive,” instead he was known as a comedy club bouncer, a DJ —which fans have grown to recognize him as — and for a time as a drug dealer.
“I used to sell weed,” he reveals in the April 7 episode of “The Jess Cagle Show.” He continues, “I did that for a little bit just to, you know, help pay the way.” While that part of his past is likely not one the “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” star is quick to highlight, it is happens to be his initial connection to comedy juggernaut Dave Chappelle. In May of 2021, Chapelle spilled the tea on that less known part of Elba’s life while appearing on a podcast.
“I was a doorman. I was a doorman at Carolines comedy club [in New York], which is fascinating now, when I meet the comedians that you kind of remember the English guy. Tall English guy with the funny accent and the little hair,” says Elba. “Dave Chappelle remembers me ’cause he used to buy weed from me. Yeah, I did all kinds of things to be honest, all kinds of things.”
Luckily for the “Luther” star his early start did not dictate the success he has amassed over the years, nor the types of roles he would be tethered to. Though when it comes to his role as Stringer Bell, being known as the savvy drug dealer can be a double-edged sword of sorts. On one hand the role was a game-changer in helping Elba launch his acting career, but on the other hand it was also a portrayal he is not proud of.
“We’re all idolizing Stringer Bell, but who are we really idolizing? Is it OK to pump a community full of heroin, but because you’re smart at it that makes you cool?” he questioned in a 2018 appearance on the “Unfiltered with Joe O’Brien” podcast.