Idris Elba: ‘I miss you guys!’

By admin
27 November 2015

Even though Idris Elba didn’t make it to SA, we managed to pin him down and ask him a few questions about his documentary: Mandela, My Dad and Me, his album and the love he has for SA...

Let’s start off by asking you about your documentary, Mandela, My Dad and Me. What can we expect from it?

It’s a very personal story about something that happened to me and my art as a musician. I think people can expect to be sort of heart-warmed by it; it’s very heart warming, I think, and very honest. If you like music, or the production of music, or how people create albums and songs, this is a really good one. If you’re a fan of me, you get to get a very personal experience about my life or what it really is like to be popular, and busy, and working. It gives you an insight into all of that.

What would you say inspired you most about creating this album?

I think the music, actually. Being in South Africa for a while making Mandela, I fell in love with the music, and it certainly inspired me to come and create some and to give a little bit of a platform for South African music. I certainly wanted to show the world that South Africa has really great musicians and beautiful songmanship.

Is there any artist from South Africa that you look up to or would like to hear?

Hugh Masekela for a long time was someone that my dad used to listen to a lot. Ithink that was one of the first times I heard any South African music, was Hugh Masekela. Then there was a whole slew of people, including some of the people on the album, like Aero Mathata, who’s an amazing producer in the house scene, and Spoek Mathambo, who’s also really, really innovative and creative.

If you could pick any track on your album that you like the most, which one would it be and why?

I love the whole album, but there’s a song called ‘Tree’ that is one that I wrote and is really personal to me. That song really sums up how I feel about my dad and how I feel about losing him. That song came very naturally from conversations that I was having with the musicians, and then the creation of that piece of art is one of the favourite things that I’ve ever done. So, ‘Tree’ I think would probably be my favourite.

Any difficulties when creating this album?

It was a big logistical undertaking making this album, flying people into South Africa and creating. Then we made the entire album probably within, like, two weeks or so, so that was a very big logistic puzzle.

How would you say your father and Mandela shaped your life?

My dad was very like… It wasn’t an overbearing presence, but always a sort of moral compass for me. As I started to become an actor, just having the confidence that my dad instilled in me as a young man, so having a man explain to me the world and how to perhaps digest the world, my dad gave me the biggest sort of springboard.  Mandela: certainly his story and the opportunity to play him has continued to inspire me. Patience was something that I got a big lesson in playing Nelson Mandela, and I still implement that patience to this day in everything I do.

How do you separate yourself from the character and being manage to be just Idris? Is it difficult?

It’s disciplined. When I’m working, I’m working; when I’m me, I’m me. The lines sometimes blur, of course, because of the time it takes to make films, but the truth is I can separate myself from the characters eventually. While I’m working, I pretty much just stay as close to the character as I can.

You’re very good with accents; especially seeing you in the Beasts of No Nation and watching you as Mandela. How do you manage to get it right? 

Thank you. I guess just paying attention. I’m somewhat of a mimic, so when I’m listening to someone speak for a while I can start to understand why they speak that way or what their voice is doing. I’ve always been that way as a kid, always been able to pretend to be my uncles and my aunts and doing silly impressions. But yes, as an actor you really have to become that person, and how they speak is a massive important component, so I pay attention to that.

Tell us, was it tough playing that role in Beasts of No Nation? 

That was a very beautiful opportunity to bring a very dark storyline to light. I was a producer as well as an actor on that, and I feel very  proud that we managed to get that film into as many homes as possible so people remember that there are still 300,000 child soldiers in any one given time around the world. Also, that is an opportunity to remind that there is amazing cinema coming from Africa.

What was your intention regarding this film?

Beasts of No Nation is a story and it comes from a book which is fiction, but yes, the ultimate goal was to really put a spotlight on the crisis.

What’s your favourite role you’ve played so far?

Favourite role? I honestly don’t have a favourite. It’s really tough to put it down to that.

What would you say was the weirdest fan encounter you ever had?

I’ve had a few wedding proposals.


They’re always pretty weird because they seem genuine, but maybe they’re not; I don’t know.

Moving on! We’re really looking forward to The Jungle Book. What was it like working with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson?

The way we made these films with the voiceovers, sometimes you don’t actually work with the other actors, so I’m thrilled to work with the two of them; I think they’re both incredible. I’m really proud to be in this film – very proud.

And Finding Nemo as well...

Yes. No, I love animation. These are films that my kids can see, and I enjoy the process as well.

Would you ever try to return to South Africa?

Yes, absolutely. I love it there; I hope to make some more films there in the future.

That’s good, and we hope so too. Anything you would like to tell your South African fans?

I miss you guys and, please, watch my film. It’s a lovely film about the love affair I have with South Africa.

Mandela, My Dad and Me is on 6 December and again on 25 December at 14:40 on The History Channel (186 on DSTV) .

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