'Luther': Idris Elba, Co-Stars Preview Special
'Game of Thrones' and 'Ripper Street' talents discuss their characters, while Elba talks about what to expect from the drama's return, whether there will be a film and how the industry is doing in terms of diversity.
The BBC's upcoming Luther two-part special will be shorter than past seasons, but extra intense, star Idris Elba told reporters in London.
Elba is reprising his role as murder detective John Luther whose mind can't always save him from the violence of his passions. Series creator Neil Cross wrote the new run of the series, a co-production of BBC Drama Production and BBC America. It will air in December in two parts in the U.K. and as a one-night special on BBC America in the U.S.
"There is some progression in Luther's life, although not really," Elba said about what to expect. "He's got really bad luck, that fella." He added: "This version of Luther is slightly older, a little smarter maybe, wiser a little bit. This is the birth of sort of the next chapter." The special starts with Luther on a leave of absence.
Darren Boyd (Veep) who plays Detective Chief Inspector Theo Bloom said one of his favorite scenes of the special is actually the on-screen return of the protagonist. "When we first see John ... he's not the man that we sort of know," he explained. "It was nice [to have] that little moment of real humanity."
The show has been off the air in Britain for more than two years since its third season ended. Why did a return make sense and how does the long break affect the story? "That's a long time for a TV show to leave and then come back," acknowledged Elba. But "we have an audience that's very loyal and demanding. I don't think they were satisfied to be honest ... with the ending of the last one." So, "I think we needed to conclude some stuff and maybe close down a chapter in order to release a new chapter or just to keep the story growing," he explained.
The break also means that fans can expect even more intensity from the special. "Because of the break, we wanted to heighten everything really," said Elba. "The idea was to really sort of up the ante a little bit and take it one step further and increase the fear that you get in Luther." The new villains "are despicable characters, let's just be honest," he added.
Asked if the creative team worried about offering fans only a short run for the show's return, Elba told reporters: "The thinking behind it is Luther has never really stuck to any rules about how many episodes [we do]. We did six, we did four. We have changed it about a little bit."
He added: "I think there needs to be a different way to sort of dissect it. I think it's smart. It's kind of like a little bit of reprogramming of audiences. I think that works with this kind of show."
Fans can look forward to new characters in the special.
Rose Leslie, who also portrays Ygritte in Game of Thrones, plays Detective Sergeant Emma Lane. Asked to describe her character, she said: "She's keen. She's certainly ambitious, but not necessarily in a ruthless way ... She's pretty tenacious." And she has a paternal relationship with Bloom, the actress added.
John Heffernan (Ripper Street), who plays a cannibal in the special, said his tech and Internet savvy baddie "feels like a very contemporary adversary," quipping with a laugh: "It's the cannibal bit that's a stretch."
Asked how he enjoyed the role, he said: "It was quite fun. That's probably a terrible thing to admit, but I quite enjoyed it." And he recalled: "There was one quite dark day when I realized that one of my victims knows my mom in real life."
Elba also discussed the reasons for the show's popularity with reporters. "I really don't know the answer," he said at first. But he then suggested that it has a "very bold style" and "I think it offers a very unique perspective on a detective's life and his thoughts." Plus, "London is shot so beautifully," he said. "You feel like you are actually in London or in a city that has a lot of crime, but it just feels like Gotham City to me." All in all, the show is "heightened" drama, "it's escapism, and it's done well," the star concluded.
Discussing the creatives' past comments that they would like to do a Luther film, Elba said: "In our heads this [two-parter] was the film. It's two hours," basically "a pilot for the film so to speak.
But he added: "We would love to get a film off the ground, and it takes time, and it's really about when Neil and I are ready to pull that off."
Does the Luther character affect Elba in real life and vice versa? "I tend to try and do Luther when I'm most tired," the star said. "When I'm tired and busy, I tend to really throw all my emotions ... into the character."
At first, he said he tried to imagine Luther's angst, but now he really knows the character much better. "Now I kind of got a real understanding of what John Luther's angst is," Elba said. "And it's not too dissimilar from some of mine in real life." Luther is a workaholic just like Elba, the star said. Both throw their everything into their work. And overextends himself emotionally. "I do that," Elba said.
The actor also addressed the issue of diversity in the entertainment industry. "There is a lot of work to do, but I think it's definitely moving in the right direction," he said. "People are aware of it. It's one of these problem that won't be fixed overnight. But it's progressively getting better."