On this blog at the end of 2009 he was voted the sixth most gorgeous man in the world. One commenter said he was “pure dark sexual chocolate”. Essence magazine named him one of the ten hottest men on the planet in 2004 and 2005. He made the cover of their bachelor issue in 2009. In 2007 People magazine named him one of the 100 most beautiful people in the world.
His American accent is so good that people are surprised when they find out he is British. But Hollywood has little interest in black characters with British accents – just ask Thandie Newton.
He was born in East London to African parents. His father was from Sierra Leone and his mother from Ghana. His uncle was a DJ who played music at Sierra Leonean weddings and christenings. While his uncle slipped off to chat up a bridesmaid he would leave Elba in charge. By 14 Elba was old enough to travel with uncle across England as a DJ. By 15 he was a DJ in his own right.
In his early twenties he started trying out for parts on British television. He played several supporting characters but did not become known in Britain till he got a steady part on “Family Affairs” in 1997. After a point, though, he saw there was little future for him in Britain: America had a much bigger black audience and therefore more and better characters for him to play (since blacks are mostly limited to playing “black” characters).
So he came to New York and worked as a DJ while he looked for work as an actor. It was hard. First there was his accent. Then his marriage broke apart and he was living in his brown Chevrolet Astro van for eight weeks. He got some small parts and in 2001 even played Achilles in Shakespeare’s “Troilus & Cressida” (the New York Times said he had the right “graceless egomania” for the part).
Then his fortunes turned: in 2002 he hit the big time as Stringer Bell in “The Wire”, playing one of the baddest gangsters in what some say is the best police show America has ever produced. While he loved playing the Machiavellian Stringer – the character was deep even if he was cold-blooded and narrowed by his drivenness – he was glad to see Stringer as a character come to a bad end.
Since the “The Wire” he has appeared in several films, like “Daddy’s Little Girls” (2007) with Gabrielle Union, “American Gangster” (2007), “RocknRolla” (2008) and “Obsessed” (2009) with Beyonce. In 2009 he appeared in six episodes of “The Office”, a British television comedy made American by NBC – which required him to speak with an American accent!
He has a daughter, Isan, born in 2002 to his now ex-wife. He has a house in Atlanta to be near his daughter.