A brilliant detective tormented by the darker side of humanity, ‘Luther’ shines a light into the hearts and minds of psychopaths and killers, and the shadowy spaces of his own soul. A BBC America co-production starring The Wire’s Idris Elba (Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell), on Oct, 17, 10:00PM. ‘Luther’ is a gripping, psychological thriller driven by a brilliant and emotionally impulsive detective.
Elba provides some insight into Luther’s world: “‘Luther’ is a modern spin on the maverick detective, an unorthodox, intellectual guy, but also passionate about his work and about the cases that he fights for.”
In terms of his character Idris explains: “Luther can’t help but get emotionally involved in his cases and, as a result, when we first meet him, you realize quickly he’s been working on one case far too long. What we see as the series continues is a man trying to get back into his stride and back on top of his game.”
“He is a compassionate man who believes in his job. He has a good understanding of human beings and the psychology of human beings, especially those that do wrong. You see a man who is fantastic at solving crime, fantastic at risk assessment and fantastic at figuring out why you did it, then you see him stumbling when it comes to dealing with his personal life.”
Luther’s marriage to human rights lawyer Zoe (played by Indira Varma) is falling apart, but Luther believes if he does the right thing he can win her back. “His attempt at dealing with the break-up of his marriage is a crash-course for disaster. His marriage is on the rocks – a result of him being too passionate about his work and his wife and not being able to sustain the relationship. Knowing Luther the way I know Luther, I think he’s dug himself deeper into his work because there’s been something missing from their relationship for a long time.”
In terms of getting into the mind of a detective, Idris explains how he prepared for the role. “I met with a senior murder detective, who also advised on the drama. He gave me an insight into his working life, how long it took to get where he is in the force and the things he has seen. We talked about what life as a detective is really like – we discussed Luther’s behavior, the expected protocol for a given situation. I had to know the rules to plan how Luther breaks them. I didn’t really go on any field work or anything like that, it’s not that type of story, it’s more about the character.”
Luther’s team of detectives include Detective Chief Inspector Ian Reed (played by Steven Mackintosh), Luther’s colleague and best friend. “He’s definitely seen the best and worst of Luther, and these guys are absolutely loyal to each other – they’ve got each others’ back, no matter what. Steven Mackintosh is fantastic as Ian Reed – very, very strong and very vulnerable and believable.”
Also part of the team is the young, idealistic Detective Sergeant Justin Ripley, who requests a transfer specifically to work with Luther, such is his reputation. “Warren Brown, who plays Ripley – he’s not going to like me saying this – but he is Luther’s Robin to my Batman. Warren is a great actor and also brings a fresh-faced, unburdened energy. There are really wonderful moments where Luther does something that is completely not text book, which throws Ripley for six, but, like Batman and Robin, they stick together.”
As for the script, written by Neil Cross, Idris says: “It was a page-turner for me. I kept reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I fell in love with ‘Luther’ – he’s a complex man, which is interesting, dramatically speaking. I wanted to play a character that challenged me and challenges the audience and I think we have that with Luther.”
In each episode, the audience discovers early on who the murderer is, so the drama is not in the mystery “who did it” – it is in watching Luther work out how to catch the killer. “There is plenty of tension just watching Luther’s mind work – he is an intense fellow. My character does his own thing throughout, but you as an audience will sit there thinking: ‘Should he be breaking the law to get there?’ It puts the audience in a unique position. My character has something of the fantastical about him, he wants to solve the crime at any costs – he’s like a super-hero and he never changes his clothes!”
On being back in England, Idris says: “I love being here. It’s great working in America and so far I’ve been very privileged in the roles that have come my way. Although I’ll continue to work in America, London is still home and British television drama still sets a benchmark for the world, so ‘Luther’ was a unique opportunity for me. I think we’ve done something special with Luther, creating a new kind of hero for a contemporary audience.”
Talking of super-heroes, Idris has just finished filming on Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh, bringing to life one of Marvel’s best-loved comic heroes.