Idris Elba: 5 Things You Don't Know

Entertainment Sep. 23, 2012 AT 12:45PM
Idris Elba backstage at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards. Idris Elba backstage at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards. Credit: Christopher Polk/Getty Images

For fans of The Wire, accolades for Idris Elba are long overdue.

The 40-year-old actor, who first made a name for himself playing entrepreneurial, Baltimore-based drug lord Stringer Bell, is finally being honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences more than eight years after that drama went off the air. This year, Elba scored a nomination in the "Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie" category for his starring role on BBC One's Luther.

Below, Us Weekly uncovers five need-to-know facts about the seriously underrated star.

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1. That American accent? Fake!

Elba is actually . . . British. The 6'2 actor (real name: Idrissa Akuna Elba) grew up in a rough London neighborhood, the son of West African immigrants. As a high school student, he shortened his moniker, Idrissa, to Idris, after one too many kids made fun of it for sounding feminine. But that doesn't mean he sat idly by and took his classmates' taunts: as he told Vulture earlier this year, he refused to let anyone get away with it. "I quickly got well known because I was tall and wasn't taking any sh--," he explained.

2. He splits his time between London and Atlanta

Currently single, Elba has a child with his ex-wife, Kim Elba. He spends as much time as he can in Atlanta, where his little girl lives with her mom. Though he's known for his tough-guy roles, Elba says he'd love to do more movies that his daughter could see. "I love kids and kids like me, so I'd like to do something a bit silly. I admire Dwayne Johnson, the Rock, and his fearlessness in taking roles like that even though he's known for being a hard man. That shows versatility . . . Plus those movies are a lot of fun, and my daughter likes them," he has said.

3. He's a DJ on the side

The Prometheus star has been spinning ever since he helped an uncle launch a wedding-DJ business in 1986. Elba makes club appearances under the name DJ Big Driis (or Big Driis the Londoner). He even co-produced a track on Jay-Z's 2007 album, American Gangster.

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4. He got his start in musical theater

Elba left home at the age of 16 after being accepted into the National Youth Music Theater, having landed a part in Guys and Dolls. "We traveled the world," he said of his early show biz days. "I didn't ever see a future in musicals, but I loved it."

5. He's okay with his underrated, underdog status

"My publicist says a lot of the time people don't get it. They're like, 'Ee-dris Elba?' And she's like, 'The guy from The Wire,'" he told Vulture this summer. "I don't see myself as famous. I'm more, 'What's his name again?' And I love that." Elba's days being "What's his name" are most likely numbered, though -- even if he doesn't take score the Emmy Sunday night, next year is slated to be a huge one for him. In 2013, Elba will appear on the big screen in Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim and play Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

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