Idris Elba is looking to challenge himself during our interview. "Right now I'm cracking open a beer with a lighter, which is hard to do, and at the same time sound genuinely interested in our conversation — which I am!" he insists. I'll have to take him at this word. In Elba's latest, the thriller "No Good Deed," he relishes in playing mean and nasty as an ex-con menacing a single mother (Taraji P. Henson).
Why won't you leave this nice Taraji P. Henson alone?
Yeah, right? I watched it yesterday with an audience and I kept asking myself, "Why are you there? Leave her alone, she's so sweet!" My character has this sort of relentless drive, but you do find yourself going, "What is this guy's problem?" He's quite creepy, the character. I was watching it thinking wow, I must be an actor because if I am really like that in real life, man, I wouldn't have any friends.
This has almost a nice throwback feel to it.
Yeah, it's a genre. It's quite reminiscent of old thriller films. I was a co-producer on this, and the director and I talked about that — "Let's remind audiences that they're in a thriller." You're going to hear thunder and you're going to hear mood music and stuff. For some reason we stopped making those types of films, but they work. They serve a particular purpose and they work.
Where are your tastes in genres and roles leading you at the moment?
I'm into being very varied, sort of shaking up genres. This film, for example — one could argue in America that this is penned as an African-American film, but it really isn't. It isn't a specific market film, it's just a film. And it's relatable to anyone that likes thrillers. My personal taste is to try to turn these genres on their heads and break down these sort of lines that we have that segment film one way or another. And also personally, I'm into really big, full characters at the moment. That's what I want to develop. Iconic characters, like Mandela, like Luther.
Does the talk about how you should be the next James Bond still come up a lot?
Oh yeah, everyone keeps asking me about it. It's died down a bit, maybe it's starting to past. But it's still just a rumor, unfortunately.
But you're going to be more "Luther," right?
Yeah man, I'm definitely trying to do that. That's something that's happened over the last few days, where I've been with Neil [Cross, the show's creator] and we've discussed it in depth. We're going to move forward and try to pull off this two-hour special for TV.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick