Idris Elba was first introduced to American television audiences as enterprising drug dealer Stringer Bell on HBO's "The Wire," but 2011 was a breakthrough year for the actor. He received a pair of Emmy nominations – Comedy Guest Actor for "The Big C" and Movie/Miniseries Actor for "Luther" – and won a Golden Globe for "Luther" after an unsuccessful bid in 2010. "I was well known internally. I was not a household name," says Elba of his notoriety prior to his awards windfall. "The nominations and the Golden Globe … I think it specifically put my name in people's earshot."
"Luther," about a brooding police detective (Elba) battling personal demons while investigating grisly murders, returned to BBC America for its second season last October. Having won a Golden Globe for the role, Elba may next contend for a second time for Best Movie/Miniseries Actor at the Emmys, which he lost last year to Barry Pepper ("The Kennedys"). But the actor doesn't approach awards with high expectations. "Of course you want to win," he says. "But ultimately the nomination in my opinion is just as much as a win."
This year Elba faces stiff competition from Clive Owen ("Hemingway and Gellhorn") and Woody Harrelson ("Game Change"). If he doesn't prevail this time around, he'll have at least one more chance; "Luther" is set to return for a third season. "The third season is almost done in terms of writing," he says. "I know we want to aim to make it this year so that we're back out there as soon as possible." That would potentially put the show in contention for the next Golden Globes and Emmy cycle as well, after which Elba has his sights set even higher.
"The truth is, we really want to turn Luther into a big-screen character," he says, "so I'm suspecting that at the end of this season that we do, it's going to be a setup for that." He teases additional details of the third season, saying, "There are going to be more really bad characters, more dark TV, and an introduction of a couple of new characters … I know there's a character that actually is a real challenge for Luther." But first, "Luther" and its star may tangle with a very different group of adversaries at the Emmys.
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