Inside JET

Cover Story: Idris Elba – Man On A Mission

Actor Idris Elba arrives at the Booksellers area of the White House in Washington for the State Dinner hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha, Wednesday, March 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

By//S. Tia Brown

British-bred cutie Idris Elba grew up with a militant father, isn’t afraid to say he doesn’t solely date Black women and is ready for a little bit of Jesus in his life. If that isn’t powerful, what is?

After all he is rather extraordinary. At 39, Idrissa Akuna Elba is easily one of the most visible and versatile Black male actors in show biz. He’s portrayed characters ranging from a calculating, wannabe kingpin to a warrior god. He’s won a Golden Globe, an NAACP Image Award and twice has been nominated for an Emmy. Plus, he’s a producer. Like many actors, Elba has switched roles, no longer waiting patiently for a job to come his way. He is a hunter, chasing down gigs— and using his own funds— to create new projects.

“Power is having the ability to execute anything that you want to do. When I believe in myself, it feels great, no matter what anyone else says,” Elba tells JET from the Atlanta-based set of his latest project, No Good Deed. His character is a villain who terrorizes the film’s star, Taraji P. Henson, but ironically, to many in the African-American community, Elba the actor is more role model than rogue.

“I am an influencer, and I own that,” he says with resolve. “I think my popularity has impacted the way Black men are viewed. Black men have always been described as athletic and strong. Sexy has come before, like with Denzel Washington— but it’s rare. And if I contribute to the media looking at Black men in a different way, instead of being a thug, I think it’s good.”

“It’s up to you to be who you say you are. I have not done anything different from any other actor, but I don’t accept everything. I very rarely let color bound me. I mean, you can’t be Blacker than me,” he adds with a laugh. “I was born to African parents. My legacy in life is not led by the color of my skin, and I don’t choose a lane because of it. I’m just me.”