Idris Elba: ‘I Was Pelted With Eggs by Racists’
Idris Elba has recalled the racial abuse he suffered as a youngster growing up in London. The Luther star was born in the racially diverse London Borough of Hackney, but when he and his family later moved to a predominantly white area, the locals weren’t quite so welcoming.
The 44-year-old spoke of his experiences in an interview with British newspaper the Daily Telegraph, ahead of the premiere on Thursday of his new Sky Atlantic/Showtime TV program Guerrilla. “My school, Trinity, was just off the Barking Road, which would take all the National Front supporters to the football at West Ham (soccer club),” he recalled. “They’d come past our school, and if we got on that bus on a game day… mate, if you were Indian or black you were getting it. Eggs thrown at you, the whole thing.” Elba grew up during the period used as the backdrop for Guerrilla, which tells the story of the rise of the black power movement in Britain in the early 70s. Created by Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley of 12 Years A Slave fame, Guerrilla follows the lives of two radical activists, played by Freida Pinto and Babou Ceesay, who become members of a U.K. based equivalent of America’s Black Panthers. Elba plays a non-violent community leader and Pinto’s former lover. “I’d been shielded from racial tension, but when we moved I felt it full whack. It was a National Front area and there were no black people,” he explained. “I remember walking down the street and being called a ‘black ****’. No one talked like that in Hackney.” While the characters of Guerrilla are allegedly fictional, some of the story focuses on the activists’ attempt to target the British police’s counterintelligence unit, dubbed “the black power desk” — the existence of which was discovered by Cambridge academics Robin Bunce and Paul Field as part of their research into the history of the British black power movement. “Discovering that the police had a dedicated team to fight black activism is bonkers,” Elba said. “That’s the very same Scotland Yard that we respect now.”