British actor and musician Idris Elba was born on September 6th, 1972, in the London Borough of Hackney, England. He was named Idrissa Akuna Elba at birth, as his mother and father were from Ghana and Sierra Leona respectively, but shortened it to Idris during his school years when he first started acting.
Before becoming a full time actor, Idris Elba worked at his uncle’s wedding DJ company, before launching his own DJ business with his friends. He left the company after he won a place in the National Youth Music Theater in 1988. Like many actors in their earlier years, Elba worked in different jobs to support himself, including gigs as a DJ.
Elba has been professionally acting since 1994, when he appeared on a TV show about murder, Crimewatch, and later the BBC’s children drama The Boot Street Band. The following years of Elba’s life would be a series of supporting roles in different British television series. By the end of the 1990s, he decided to move to New York City to pursue other acting opportunities, as well as participate in stage productions.
Now in the U.S., Elba went on to appear on popular shows such as Law & Order and The Office. In 2002, he starred in HBO’s drama series The Wire, one of his most notable roles to date. Between starring in various TV shows, he also made his big film debut in 2007’s Daddy’s Little Girls, opposite Gabrielle Union. Elba’s subsequent film appearances were mostly in the horror genre, like 28 Week Later (2007) and The Unborn (2008), with some roles in action and comedy features. One of his most notable roles was in Kenneth Branagh’s superhero movie Thor (2011), a character he would reprise in subsequent movies within the same universe. He returned to television thanks to Showtime’s The Big C, and was the lead in the BBC’s series Luther, for which he won a Golden Globe Award in 2012. This was the first of many nominations for Elba, as the actor was eventually nominated for his work portraying Nelson Mandela in a movie based on the South African leader’s autobiography. Elba was nominated again in 2015 for his role on the Netflix movie Beast of No Nation, as well as a Supporting Actor BAFTA award nomination.
In 2016, Elba took up several voice acting roles, such as Zootopia, The Jungle Book and Finding Dory. He continued to appear in successful films based on books throughout 2017, such as the film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, and Charles Martin’s The Mountain Between Us. In 2019, Elba played the villain in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, a spin-off of the Fast & Furious franchise. He would go on to appear in the film adaptation of the famous musical Cats (2019) and star, in 2021, as a mercenary called “Bloodsport” in James Gunn’s highly anticipated The Suicide Squad, marking his return to superhero movies.