Idris Elba on Luther’s new killer, using the show as therapy and what happens when the plot gets too dark for TV

As series four of the BBC1 thriller begins, RadioTimes.com talks to Idris Elba about the hit show, and how he deals with its violence...

Idris, tell us about the new killer in Luther series four…

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This killer is particularly gruesome, smart, gnarly…a little unexpected. Neil [Cross, writer of Luther] has outdone himself with this particular character. The whole show has been heightened and Alice’s [Ruth Wilson’s character] presence is felt.

How do you deal with all the anger and violence in Luther?

I lost my dad two years ago, and I’ve still not mourned about that. It’s hard to do. I remember going into Luther with this angst and I needed to get some of that off my chest. And I had a very rough time before I did that first season — that door-kicking scene, we did it only once. Brian Kirk [director] was like ‘ok guys, everyone take five’.

So this feels like a very natural role for you?

It’s the one project that when I show up on set, I only have to put on my costume. I shoot it in Hackney, in my own accent, my grey beard is my beard. I can be closer to me.

Why are the two 60-minute episodes of Luther being shown on separate nights in Britain but all in one night in the US?

The BBC wants to dissect it, to give audiences time to digest it. In England it would work [as one], but I don’t think the audience would appreciate it. I think they like to go away and discuss it.

 Have you ever shot any Luther scenes that were too dark to put on TV?

There was a very dark sequence in the last series that explained some things floating around in Luther’s head. We shot it, cut it but had to take it out. One day someone might try and get some footage and put it in another dimension because it was deep. Not everything Neil writes and shoots we can put on TV. The powers that be were like ‘no’.

Will Luther ever be happy?

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Happy Luther would be a bit odd…but there are elements of him that need to be satisfied. He’s lost so many people, and it’s clear how that’s affected him. 

Luther series 4 begins at 9pm on Tuesday 15th December on BBC1