We Asked Idris Elba If He Thinks John Luther Is a Good Cop or a Bad Cop
Photo: John Wilson/Netflix

We Asked Idris Elba If He Thinks John Luther Is a Good Cop or a Bad Cop

Elba reprises his iconic character in ‘Luther: The Fallen Sun’

For years and years, people have been asking Idris Elba if he wants to be James Bond, if he’s gonna be James Bond, and why he hasn’t been cast as James Bond—there have been a lot of questions about James Bond. It makes sense because Elba is a charismatic, handsome, masculine actor, who would probably have been great as the British secret agent. However, the odd thing about the James Bond conversation is, firstly, what if Elba isn’t all that interested in it anymore? Who cares what you or I really think in that case? Secondly, Elba has his own version of James Bond in Detective Chief Inspector John Luther.

Luther and Bond share some similarities: They’re both very smart British men who go after deranged people. But Luther is grittier, more chaste, and a lot more morally ambiguous. Bond shoots people while he’s wearing Tom Ford suits. Luther hates guns like he’s Batman or some shit. Bond drives Ashton Martins, a car that you’ve probably never seen unless you live in Miami. Luther drives a beat-up Volvo. Luther is a contemporary, working-class version of Bond. And Elba is perfectly at home right then and there.

"Luther has always done what is most relatable as opposed to these highbrow crimes that are unrelatable."

It’s been four years since Elba has appeared on screen as Luther. With his latest turn as the detective in the film Luther: The Fallen Sun (in select theaters now; on Netflix tomorrow, March 10), we see the character face consequences for being a dirty cop, being whisked away to prison. Of course, that doesn’t last long as there’s a psychotic tech billionaire (played by Andy Serkis) who Luther is hellbent on bringing to justice.

LEVEL briefly caught up with Elba via Zoom to talk about reprising his iconic character and why the filmmakers chose to insert a villain who recalls Elon Musk.

LEVEL: So, how does it feel to be back playing Luther—probably your most iconic character outside of The Wire’s Stringer Bell?
Idris Elba: It feels good. I mean, it's one of these moments where I feel like, you know, dreams really come true. Taking five seasons of a TV show and then being able to take it into a larger scale feels great. It feels like a gift. And also feels like a new beginning, to be honest.

Luther kind of oversteps the law sometimes, which cops do all the time. Usually, they think they're doing the right thing, even if they're doing the wrong thing. Do you think Luther is a good cop? Do you think he's a bad cop? Do you think he's somewhere in between?
I think he's a good person, bad cop. I mean, I have to say he's not a very good cop. If a good cop is someone that abides by the law, and, you know, puts his job in the most professional lane it can be, then he doesn't do that. But he's a good person with good intentions. And I think he abuses his position as a lawman to go out of his way.

A tech billionaire is a very modern foe for Luther—these days, tech billionaires seem to be the common man's enemy. Do you think it's necessary for this newest installment of Luther to tap into something that's on everybody's minds right now?
Luther has always done what is most relatable as opposed to these highbrow crimes that are unrelatable. I think Luther’s cases always try to find things that make people go, “Huh, that could have happened to me.” And I think in this day and age when we think about technology, cyber warfare, you know, the vulnerabilities that come with being attached to our devices, I think it's very prevalent. And I think as a mechanism—we're trying to go from TV to film—how do we amplify it? What do we take as a crime that is applicable to all in an easy way? Cyber technology felt like the most easy. But then you amplify that with this tech billionaire who is strange, creepy, weird, and has a malevolence that only you could find in Luther. I think that's a point of difference. I do believe that Neil Krause uses it as a mechanism to draw people into this world.

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