He wears a heavy tweed coat instead of a cape and a steely, brooding façade instead of a dark cowl, but for Luther star Idris Elba, his British copper might as well be London’s own Batman. “In concept, we straddle between detective and superhero. Although there aren’t any magic tricks or capes or anything like that, we put our central character through improbable — and probable — scenarios that ask the audience to suspend their belief,” says Elba, the British actor who returns as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther for a third installment of the series running Tuesday through Friday (10 ET/PT nightly, except at 9 ET/PT Wednesday) on BBC America.
Over the course of a trio of seasons since 2010, Luther has dealt with masked serial killers, pedophiles, twin killers, snipers and the psychopathically endearing murderer Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), who’s gone from Luther’s arch-enemy to confidante. That stuff is almost easiest for the grumpy lawman to deal with than other aspects of his life, like coming to grips with the death of his ex-wife and brandishing his own sense of justice that, while efficient, puts him at odds with most every other cop in town.
“He’s a spiritually wounded man, and one of the great malicious pleasures of writing for the character and this particular actor is what kind of hell can I put him through next?” says Luther creator and writer Neil Cross.
Cross says that this final installment may be the last time we’ll see Luther on a small screen — he and Elba want to take him to the big screen next to explore a different period of his life. Elba feels the dramatically escapist elements of Luther set it aside from all the other cop dramas worldwide. It’s been so well received, in fact, that the BBC gave Cross the OK to lean in even more to its “horror show” aspects, the creator says. “It was partly a case of being let loose in the toy shop and really, really wanting to do a show that scared the (stuff) out of people.”
It’s also become more of a stylized, slightly “comic book” series, Wilson says. “Even though it’s incredibly brutal and scary, there’s a lightness to it as well. It’s more quirky and bold.” While there are some grim situations, Luther is shockingly enough in a decent place with his mind-set, even smiling a few times — especially when he meets a potential love interest in Mary Day (Sienna Guillory).
Cross recalls the script of the first episode of the season contained the line “John Luther is happy!” and his editor wrote him an e-mail saying, “I just read this sentence. Uh oh. Bad things lay ahead.”
As a producer of the show, Elba wanted his character to reflect where the actor was in his own life, so he has a fresh haircut, is a little slimmer and exudes the feeling that he’s really gone through something and come out the other side.
Turmoil is never far away from Luther, however, and that’s a staple in Elba’s wheelhouse of characters. Many, like Stringer Bell in The Wire and his upcoming turn as the famous South Africa leader in the movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, carry a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.
In Luther’s case, it’s symbolized in his ubiquitous heavy coat. “I gravitate to these roles because they examine a very complex line of emotion and believability,” Elba says. “The average person would die with that much turmoil in their lives, but they’re quite interesting to play at the moment for me.”
Cross feels that love is the ultimate kryptonite for his London super man — “It’s kind of sad because if anything destroys him, it will be love,” he says — but Elba disagrees, saying his curiosity and passion for getting to the truth are his greatest weaknesses.
“He wants to touch the sun so much,” the actor says, “but he’s not worried about being burned on the way up.”
The most important thing for Cross, though, is that Luther’s never scared, be it of his romantic travails or the villain du jour.
“He is unequivocally the hero,” he says. “If you’re going to have a serial killer crawl out from under your bed or hide in your attic, you want John Luther to turn up. You want him to be trudging through your house with his hands in his pockets.
“His job is to be indefatigable. The day we see Luther scared of a bad guy is a bad day indeed.”
article by Brian Truitt via usatoday.com