Idris Elba Finds Therapy in Playing Villains, Credits Writers for Their Depth

Renowned actor discusses the cathartic nature of villainous roles and the crucial role of writers in their creation

Idris Elba recently shared his thoughts on the therapeutic nature of portraying “completely socially unacceptable” characters, emphasizing that the true genius behind great villains lies with their writers.

“These characters express thoughts that lurk in the darkest corners of our minds,” Elba told the Wall Street Journal regarding his “bad guy” roles. “They utter horrific things and behave in ways that are entirely socially unacceptable. For an actor, this can be a gift and a form of therapy.”

Elba has brought several infamous villains to life, such as in “Beasts of No Nation” (2015), “Hobbs & Shaw” (2019), and “The Harder They Fall” (2021).

However, Elba stressed that the power of a villain’s persona often comes from the writing. “When you see an intriguing villain, you might praise the actor, but consider the writer,” he said. “It’s the writer who delves into darkness. They deserve a hug.”

In the interview, Elba also discussed his approach to selecting roles. “I believe acting is acting,” he said. “I don’t follow a strict formula. If a character resonates with me, I don’t prioritize based on hierarchy. I ask myself: Is the writing good? Is it something new for me? Can I completely immerse myself in this role?”

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