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Idris Elba Didn’t Know That He Was Written out ‘The Wire’ Until He Got to the Episode



Actor Idris Elba got one of his breakthrough roles starring in the critically acclaimed HBO series The Wire. But Elba was once under the impression that he’d last on the show a bit longer than he did.

How Idris Elba reacted to his character’s ending

Initially, Elba owed a lot of his success to his character on The Wire. Back then, fans knew the actor as Stringer Bell, who had a mind for how business worked in the drug business. Stringer Bell seemed like a character who’d stick around for the long haul. But the character served his purpose pretty early on the show.

Elba didn’t get the news until he was handed the script for the episode. Speaking on What Now? with Trevor Noah, he even panicked a little bit.

“I didn’t know my character was gonna die until we got the episode… You usually get your scripts, you know, like two, three in a row, they write them,” Elba said. “And I think the way I got it, I got episode seven. I was like, ‘Oh, um, episode seven. I got episode seven. Where’s eight? Can I get eight? What’s wrong?’ ‘Uh, you’re not, not, you’re not in eight. ‘What do you mean? I’m not in eight?’ ‘You should read, you should read it.’ That’s how I kind of found out.”

Speaking with The Associated Press (via The Wrap), series creator David Simon had to console Elba afterwards.

“When he read the script … he was like, ‘Man, I can’t believe I’m leaving the show.’ Like, he was not happy. And I remember talking with him over the script and saying, ‘Idris, you’re going to have movie roles. You’re going to be an A-lister. People are going to get a load of this death, they’re going to acquire this story arc in retrospect — this is your calling card, man. You’re going to do fine,” Simon recalled.


Idris Elba was pissed with how his character was originally written off the show

Simon stood firm on his idea to remove Stringer from the show. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the character’s fate further highlighted the story being told. And he wasn’t going to let anything change its course.

“Stringer and Colvin [played by Robert Wisdom] are both from different sides trying to reform the drug war, and it’s unreformable,” Simon said. “It belongs to the gangsters and to the career cops who want to get paid, and so Colvin and Stringer needed to have the same arc, thematically, to make the political point. And at a point at which you let a character or charisma or any of that stuff dictate the story you’re telling, you’re kind of becoming a hack.”

Initially, however, Stringer’s last moments on screen were going to be far more brutal. So much so that Elba’s reaction caused Simon to change his final scene. In the script, it was revealed Michael K. Williams’ Omar didn’t just shoot Stringer Bell.

“He then whips his d*** out and pisses on him,” Elba recalled. “I was pissed.”

Elba shared his feelings to Simon, who toned down the script afterwards.

“I told him it was absolute tragedy, that it was sensational, and that it wasn’t going to happen,” Elba recalled saying.


Idris Elba feared that he’d end up just like Stringer Bell

It turned out that Elba might’ve become the film star that Simon predicted. The actor’s career only soared higher after he left the series. But originally, Elba had a difficult time moving past his Stringer Bell character. He confided that one of his biggest fears was sharing the same fate as his Wire counterpart.

“Stringer Bell, he was a small character in the pilot, few lines here and there. I identified with him a lot. He was an underdog, right? I was an underdog. And the feeling that I’m not the guy, I’m the guy next to the guy. Or, I’m not the guy yet, but I could be the guy,” Elba said in an Esquire interview. “I always had a fear that I would end up like Stringer Bell. I always felt like, damn, this guy was going places, he was f***ing smart, everyone liked him, and he got moped out. I always feel like, that could be me. I could get run over, I could get stabbed, I could get shot. I could get an illness. Nothing’s permanent.”

Source: Cheat Sheet


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