Does Idris Elba Regret Playing Stringer Bell on “The Wire?”

Over the course of his career, Idris Elba has become one of the most well-known actors of his generation. After starting his career in his home country of England, he eventually became a star in the United States as well. His popularity in America is partly due to his role in the TV series The Wire which aired from 2002 to 2008. In the series, Elba played a drug dealer named Stringer Bell. Although some would say that the show didn’t get the viewership it deserved during its time on the air, it has always been praised by critics and is now considered a classic. But while the role may have helped his career get a boost on this side of the pond, it may not be a role that Elba looks back on with fond memories. So, does Idris Elba regret his role in The Wire? Let’s talk about it.

Who Was Stringer Bell?

Stringer Bell is easily one of the most memorable characters from The Wire although he only appeared in the first three seasons of the show. Stringer Bell was a Baltimore native who grew up in low-income housing. Due to his difficult financial situation, he had to make some difficult decisions in order to get by. After getting into the drug game, he rose through the ranks and became second in command to a local drug kingpin named Avon Barksdale. Unlike many other drug dealers, Stringer was never the type of person to get wrapped up in the flashy lifestyle. Instead, he preferred to maintain a more professional appearance which helped him blend in and avoid being associated with illegal activity. Despite being caught up in the drug world, Stringer always envisioned something more for himself. He was very smart and studied economics at Baltimore City Community College. He hoped to use his knowledge to eventually help Barksdale legitimize his business. Unfortunately, however, the character would eventually be killed off the show.

Does Idris Elba Regret Playing the Character?

Some people may assume that being part of The Wire was one of the best experiences of Idris Elba’s career. In reality, however, it’s not that simple. During his time on the show, Idris was very proud of his work as Stringer. In the years since, though, he has come to feel conflicted about the fact that Stringer was such a beloved character. According to Looper, Idris Elba said, “We’re all idolizing Stringer Bell, but who are we really idolizing? Is it okay to pump a community full of heroin, but because you’re smart at it that makes you cool?” Idris certainly isn’t the first actor to look back with regret on a role. There are actually quite a few actors who have played ‘bad’ characters who now wish they hadn’t been part of perpetuating certain stereotypes. Despite not really agreeing with the character’s legacy, Elba acknowledges that he understands why the character may have been relatable. He told The Guardian, “He [Stringer] actually reminded me of people I grew up with who had to play in the sidelines. You were dealing with Avon, who’s a Don Corleone type, and Stringer’s his consigliere. We all grew up with the famous portrayals by De Niro and all those guys who got to do cool shit as gangsters. And here was this African-American team of fellers in Baltimore and they weren’t getting caught”. That said, it doesn’t appear that Idris’ overall experience with The Wire was bad. Plus, at the time it was the opportunity he needed to put himself in a better situation. An article from Joe.ie reported that Elba said, “At the time it was a small role in a TV show; it was a massive opportunity for a) me to come out of poverty, and b) be seen on an HBO show. I don’t think it was ever written to be the legacy that it’s become.”

The Legacy of The Wire

It’s been almost 15 years since The Wire aired its last episode, but the show continues to be remembered fondly by many. The Wire still maintains a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and more people are discovering the series every day. While unfortunate Idris Elba may not be happy with the legacy that Stringer Bell left behind, he has accomplished something that many actors can only dream of. Being part of a series that will always stand the test of time is certainly something to be proud of. Since leaving the show, Idris has gone on to show the world that he can do much more than play someone like Stringer Bell.


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