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NAACP Image Awards: 10 Times Idris Elba Brought That Smoke To A Role

He is among five top nominees for Outstanding Actor In a Comedy Series.

Idris Elba is one of the hottest actors in Hollywood today, celebrated for both his superb acting skills, and sex appeal. He was named PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2018. Elba, whose parents are from Sierra Leone and Ghana, was born in London and went to school in Canning Town, where he first became involved in acting. He earned a spot in the National Youth Music Theatre after receiving a grant, according to IMDB. “To support himself between acting roles, he worked in jobs such as tire-fitting, cold call advertising sales, and working night shifts at Ford Dagenham,” IMDB writes. “He worked in nightclubs under the nickname DJ Big Driis at age 19, but began auditioning for television roles in his early-twenties.

After several years of acting on British television, he found fame in America with his breakout role as drug dealer Russell Stringer Bell on the hit HBO series The Wire, which premiered on June 2, 2002 and ended on March 9, 2008. He transferred his small screen stardom into box office star power, starring in such movies as Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girl and the heist hit Takers.

Elba, 48, married Sabrina Dhowre Elba in 2019, a Somali-American professional model and social media personality. They live in London.

Here are 10 times Idris brought smoke to a role:

  1. ‘IN THE LONG RUN’

    Elba, creator and star of this semi-autobiographical British comedy, is nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor In a Comedy Series in 2021. The film is the tale of an immigrant family making its way in Britain in the 1980s and is based loosely on Elba’s own childhood. He plays a factory worker Walter from Sierra Leone whose life is turned upside down when his mother sends his younger brother, Valentine (Jimmy Akingbola), to live with him in London. Valentine, a professional footballer turned DJ, isn’t interested in traditional hard work, and the tension represents a constant struggle between the two siblings. “People work nine to five here,” Walter says in an early episode, according to The Guardian. “That’s a very long time,” replies Valentine in alarm. Check out a video clip of the film below:

  2. ‘FAST AND FURIOUS: HOBBS AND SHAW’

    (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
    (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

    In the Fast & Furious spin-off in 2019, Elba sizzles as Brixton, a villain who’s engineered to be unstoppable. “I am human evolutionary change,” Brixton says in the trailer. The character goes on to list “his genetically modified skills as a bulletproof, superhuman anarchist who is threatening to destroy the world,” Vanity Fair writes. “He’s some amalgamation of villains we’ve seen before, from James Bond to Marvel movies.”
     

  3. ‘THE JUNGLE BOOK’

    Elba appears in the 2016 film only as a voice in his portrayal of Shere Khan, the most iconic villainous tiger in cinema history. But his British accent gives life to Jon Favreau’s live-action remake of the animated classic. Check out a video clip of the fun remake below:

  4. ‘PACIFIC RIM’

    Elba smoldered in his role in 2013 as the leader of the Earth’s armies, uniting all the world’s people for one final battle. He is simply inspiring in Guillermo del Toro’s kaiju vs. robots epic blockbuster that gifted us with scenes of Elba in various states of very heroic undress, Filmdaily writes. And he gets viewers stoked when his character screams, “Today, we are cancelling the apocalypse!” as he dropped his American accent to go full East London, Complex notes.
     

  5. ‘LUTHER’

    Elba scorches in his role as detective John Luther in the popular BBC series that began in 2010 and ran through 2019. He plays “a passionate and dedicated police detective with a near-genius intellect,” writes the BBC. He won two Golden Globes and a Royal Television Society best actor award for his performance in the role. In 2020, he also teased the prospect of the release of a feature film version of Luther, according to Variety.

  6. ‘OBSESSED’ 2009

    (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
    (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

    Elba is, well, hot AF in this thriller as he and Beyonce play a happily married couple whose lives are turned inside out when his new colleague, Ali Larter, goes full on crazy when he rebuffs her advances. “The film represents one of the few times Elba played a straight heroic lead instead of a cool AF anti-hero,” Complex notes.

  7. ‘AMERICAN GANGSTER’

    (Photo by JASON AUGUSTINE/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
    (Photo by JASON AUGUSTINE/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

    Elba brought that smoke to his small role as a cocky streetwise brother in 2007. He stood out even alongside Hollywood heavyweights like Denzel Washington in Ridley Scott’s sweeping 70s crime epic. Yes, he was killed by Washington’s Frank Lucas character, but his role was memorable for several reasons, Complex notes. For one, he holds his own on a set with Washington, showing off his powerful acting skills. And most notably, the actor, who is also a DJ, singer and songwriter, collaborated with Jay Z, appearing on the album soundtrack.
     

  8. ‘TYLER PERRY’S DADDY’S LITTLE GIRLS’

    (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)
    (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)

    Elba sizzles in this 2007 film as Monty, a mechanic struggling to make ends meet while raising his three young daughters alone. When his ex-wife, a drug dealer, wins custody of the girls, he hires successful attorney Julia (Gabrielle Union) to help get them back. When an unexpected romance blossoms between the two, they struggle to come to terms with their different lifestyles while trying to find a way to keep Monty's family together.
     

  9. ‘THE OFFICE’

    (Photo by Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)
    (Photo by Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

    Fresh off The Wire, Elba had an extended guest run in the fifth season of U.S. version of The Office. Highlighting his humor while trying to underplay his sexiness, Elba played Charles Miner, the no-nonsense Vice President of Northeast Sales for Dunder Mifflin, who quickly gets upset at and played by Michael Scott. “Idris is known for his big, intense performances, so it’s pretty great to see him have a sense of humour and play off his reputation,” Complex writes.

  10. ‘THE WIRE’

    (Photo by ANDREW COWIE/AFP via Getty Images)
    (Photo by ANDREW COWIE/AFP via Getty Images)

    Elba skyrocketed from an unknown to one of the hottest actors of his generation in his role as Stringer Bell in this wildly popular series that ran from 2002 to 2008. “Stringer Bell is still one of the greatest TV characters of all time, a criminal from the streets who aspires to be a businessman, who studies business theory and applies it to the drug game, and yet keeps getting dragged back to the street,” Complex writes. “It’s a role of a lifetime, and Elba smacks it out of the park every single episode.”

  11. Watch the 52nd Annual NAACP awards on BET on Saturday, March 27, 2021 at 8/7C

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