Words by Bethany McLean for Female First
Growing up on a rough and tough north London estate didn't provide a natural setting for Idris Elba to launch his career as a Hollywood superstar, yet he believes his rugged upbringing has helped to form the man he is today.
With Sierra Leone-born father Winston and Ghanaian mother Eve setting up home in a less than glamorous outpost of Hackney, their son Idrissa (Idris' birth name) dared to dream with an unconventional career goal, as he found an instant attracting to acting at school.
"I must have been the only kid in my class who wanted to be an actor," he explained in a chat with journalists to promote the third season of Sky Original series, In The Long Run.
"Being on stage or in front of a camera felt natural to me.
"I remember drama class in my boys' school and most of the kids saw the lesson as a bit of a joke, but I was the opposite. I loved acting and ended up playing some unusual parts during my time at school; I loved it and thankfully it has worked out for me."
Elba has become one of the most recognisable and respected actors on the planet in recent years, with his commanding performances in BBC One drama Luther backed up by a host of acting credits that included an acclaimed performance in the movie Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom in 2013.
Now he is back for the third season of his brilliant comedy-drama In The Long Run, which is currently airing on Sky and it is clear that this is a project close to his heart as is draws heavily on his experiences growing up in Hackney.
"I look back on my time growing up in Hackney with real fondness, even though we didn't have a lot of money and I spent a lot of time on my own at home as my parents were out of work all the time and we had some great characters around us," he reflected.
"We used to go to a very Irish pub and my uncle would play there on a Friday. There were a lot of Jamaicans who went to that pub and you would hear Congolese music and Dire Straights on the same night! That was the norm.
"There was mad diversity with the different people we had around us. This show was not designed to make fun of the people around us, but more to give an insight into a community with real diversity and how they can all have fun together.
"There were some really dark elements of that time in my life, but this show is designed to look at the lighter side of what happened to me."
Elba's venture into comedy is an interesting change of direction and he admits he had some trepidation as he made the move.
"I wasn't convinced I could pull off a successful comedy, but when a comedian of Bill Bailey's stature says he likes the script and wants to work with me; I then believed I could make a success of this," he added.
"In The Long Run is entertainment and escapism. The 80s was a big decade for shaping England to how we know it today and if people who lived through that period can relate to what they see on screen.
"I grew up in a household where my Dad, me and all of us grew up watching Only Fools and Horses and cracking up at what Del Boy and Rodney were up to. That was close to what we were like, where we were living the lifestyle we had, so there is a vibe of that show in ours now.
"Even if you are not English, this is a perspective into what it was like to grow up in 1980s London. It is like a museum piece, with the clothes, the cars, the music of the time. I'd just so happy that people like it and we are back for a third series."
In The Long Run is available on Sky and NOW TV now.
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