Changes: Idris Elba
The audio version of this episode is available here.
Idris [00:00:00] "Alright everyone I want you to use your imagination, I want you lie down on the floor". We are all like *laughs jokingly* lying down on this drama floor. "And I want you to imagine you're in a frying pan." "What miss", "you're in a frying pan and you're a freshly cracked egg and I want you to crackle and pop like a fried egg". There was silence and then a couple of people, including me who started to "pop, crack, pop, pop, pop" *makes frying egg noises*, doing all this movement right. And I lost myself in it. I was a fried egg. I was getting flipped. And then when I opened my eyes and looked up half the boys were standing there looking at me going "what are you doing son"?
Annie [00:00:19] Hello and welcome to Changes. It is Annie Macmanus here, great to have you with us. My guest today, is a global superstar. He's an award winning actor, a film director, a producer, a DJ, a rapper, an entrepreneur, a podcaster, a UN goodwill ambassador, a kickboxer and the list goes on. I am so delighted to welcome to Changes, Idris Elba.
Idris [00:00:44] *Whispers* Annie, hello Annie! Do you know what, honestly I'm sweating from that list of stuff. I'm like ah, ah ah! Sweating.
Annie [00:00:53] How does that make you feel when you hear that?
Idris [00:00:54] It's just- it's ridiculous *laughs*. That is the product of an overt, productive imagination right there. Only child syndrome on crack. Can I say crack? Can't say crack.
Annie [00:01:06] Yes, you can. You can say whatever you want on this podcast *Idris laughs*. Well, listen, we should talk about the fact at the very top of this, because obviously people will be expecting us to speak about acting and your acting work, and because of the SAG-AFTRA strike, we cannot out of respect to the strikers. But I did want to ask you if it's okay, Idris, about just the nature of that strike and I suppose if you could give us some kind of context as to how the world has changed for actors with streaming and things like that. I mean, we know streaming has been totally detrimental to the movie industry. It's kind of killed the concept of a linear TV series. But how has it changed things for for actors?
Idris [00:01:47] What's happening is the tech companies that run streaming are not the guys that make the stuff. They're not creatives. It's a tech industry. And so they're just they're position on the rights of actors, the rights of writers, is viewed through a lens of tech. It's viewed through a lens of economy. It is as a business, you know, most actors don't work all the time. And for, say, 10 to 15 years of my career, I was part of that. You know, I didn't work a lot. And when I did work, I was really thankful for the system, my unions having residuals. So residual payment for something you've done, right. So I did something on BBC when I was, you know, 19 and when I was 26 I was still getting little checks in *laughs*.
Annie [00:02:38] And that happens when something is rerun or re-shown or something like that, right? Got you.
Idris [00:02:42] When it's rerun, it's probably sold to a different country, and you know, the unions were like, well, if you sell on this performance, the actors, the writers, you know, everyone involved should get a piece of the pie, right? And that was like, yes, please! Because-
Annie [00:02:58] I can pay my rent.
Idris [00:02:59] I can pay my rent. I also- I am part of the end product for life. That is me, my image, my performance and if you're selling it on and making money, therefore I should. The streamers don't work that way, the streamers are a very different model. They don't sell on their product. Once it's a Netflix or an Apple or an Amazon, it's theirs for life and therefore they pay, now these sort of fees which bake in a sort of buyout system. A buyout is where they go, right we'll take in consideration your payment for your work and you know, what we might get in residual, we'll give you a lump sum upfront upfront. And it is another way of just not really keeping the contract with actors and writers in the way it has been done historically. Film studios and streamers are looking at the numbers and going, well, I don't know if it makes sense. And not to mention that the power of unions is a struggle now. You know, so many content makers, actors aren't part of a union and are putting out content and are doing deals. So obviously if you're in a union and someone's being very successful and they're not in the union, it sort of waters down the power of the union. So that's my- and I'm going to say this nice and loud, that's my perspective on what's happening. It is a tragedy. The strike is one that is necessary to keep, I guess, the integrity of our life because, yes, it is a living, but we do it from our souls. When you and I give our souls to the work that we do, it's not like punching a bunch of numbers in a calculator, you're giving a part of yourself and that should be sacred and treasured and renumerated properly. And that's why we're striking, that's why the strikes on and that's why it's very difficult.
Annie [00:05:06] How have you coped, as a man who is you know, as we know from the intro, incredibly busy and busy minded? How have you coped without being able to do your main kind of day job as such?
Idris [00:05:19] Well *laughing* I have, as you've already noticed, I've got a few things-
Annie [00:05:22] Plenty of other stuff going on Annie! I'm grand *laughs*.
Idris [00:05:27] *Laughs* I have got a few fingers in a few pies, but that said, you know, I'm a filmmaker. Interestingly enough, though, because I'm English and I'm also part of the equity union, I can work here. I can.
Annie [00:05:41] Ok great. Yes.
Idris [00:05:42] And just currently, we're all standing in solidarity as we can but at some point, you know, yes, my head's going to fall off my shoulders if I don't do something. And I've been contemplating directing, you know, some projects as a different way, which does not affect or cross the lines-
Annie [00:06:01] Okay.
Idris [00:06:01] Of the strike, but yeah it's a tough one you know, it's really tough and I really feel for a lot of the crews, the make up teams.
Annie [00:06:11] Yeah, they're out of work totally.
Idris [00:06:13] The caterers- completely, the drivers- I mean, it's a struggle, you know, people are going to lose their shirts.
Annie [00:06:18] Idris, can I ask you about your relationship to the word change? That's what this conversation is kind of rooted in that word. What are your reactions when I say that word?
Idris [00:06:29] Change. It's weird because on one side of me, maybe the left side of my brain, I'm all for change. Like you can't grow or create or experiment without the adoption of change. And so the left side of my brain is like, yes, change, but there's one side of me which I'm very much like, don't like change! Don't change stuff! Leave it, I like it just as it is! *Laughs* and that's a weird part of me, and I think that more applies to sort of my routines in life, you know what I mean? Like, I've got habits that I've grown into, you know, just ways that I think, or ways- things that I do that definitely need change, need a little bit of a reprogramming. And so my relationship with change is, yeah, mess or menos, as they say.
Annie [00:07:20] A little conflicting. Yeah.
Idris [00:07:22] Little conflicting, yeah. I'm all for it, though. I think change is important. I think change necessary. I think it has- its growth isn't it, its continuation, it's momentum is change.
Annie [00:07:37] And also you know looking- reading your Wikipedia and you know just looking at the breadth of creative work you do, like the breadth of it, it's so vast and it's not just like, oh you make music and oh, you act. It's kind of within those fields, the huge variation of music you make and well, you know, acting you do. Like, this idea of changing hats, like being able to kind of go from one creative endeavour to the next, to the next, to the next. Or not even creative like, you know, going to do activism or philanthropy or whatever. You must be really good at that.
Idris [00:08:10] So I don't think I'm very good at everything. I'm just good at going, give it a go and give it your best go. My interests have always been varied. As a child I realised that, you know, my parents are West African, was very much, you know, 'children should be seen and not heard, be quiet!' And as an only child, I spent a lot of time on my own. You know, my parents didn't have that much money. We, you know, we grew up on an estate in East London, a two bedroom flat in Hackney. It was like, right, well, if you're going to play by yourself, what are you going to keep yourself interested in? And it just varied from cars, to drawing, to plasticine, to climbing, to BMXs when they came out. I mean, I was just all over the place. I could ride a skateboard, I could break dance, I could pull a wheelie for half a mile. Like, just because I had this imagination and I had this time and I was self-driven as an only child. So I don't feel it- you know, people are always saying ahh you're so different from others, I'm not really, I just have this sort of different IOS if you like. Same computer, different operating system *laughs*.
[00:09:23] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:09:34] Tell me about your mum and dad, please. What kind of characters were they and how did they influence you, I suppose, as a kid?
Idris [00:09:40] My parents, erm *exhales*. I'm an only child and I think my parents wanted a bigger family. Couldn't conceive a bigger family so I was a lot to them. A lot. My dad was doting and kind. He always tried to make me laugh. He's a really, really observant man, really observant. I could be sitting there and he'd be like, 'you want to go out, don't you?' or you know, he'll just be reading me all the time. My mum, you know, she's very- quite strict. She's was a very strict woman. And because I was the only one, I think she was very protective. So she was very much 'no, don't do that! Don't jump-'. You know, even to this day she's like why are you doing so much? Why don't you just sit down for a second? But that comes from a place of protection and she's very proud of what I have achieved but she just doesn't like the idea that I'm always running around. Like every time I get on a plane she's like, 'why are you getting on the plane? Why?'. *Laughs* I says I've got to go somewhere. Their marriage was, you know, it was a happy one for a long time. I guess they just wanted to go back to Africa at one junction and didn't. And with that comes I guess a sense of, you know, lost ambition if you like, and then all of that sort of transferred onto me when I became, you know, successful at what I was doing. And my parents did not think I'd be successful at acting, they were just like that's not a job, actors don't make money why are you trying to go for that? But I guess when they saw me for the first time in a play when I was probably 17 or whatever, 19, and they were like, 'oh, oh, oh'. I mean, they saw my school reports which was like, he's very good at drama, he's very good at getting A+'s every time but they never thought it was a job.
Annie [00:11:31] Yeah, and I saw a quote in an interview where you talked about having chronic asthma as a kid and you said you were in and out of hospital a lot. I didn't realise that.
Idris [00:11:43] Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Before they really understood, like, you know how to control asthma erm, what the influences might have been- my dad was a big smoker and I think that was a massive influence to my asthma as well. But yeah, I was in and out of hospital quite a bit as a young man.
Annie [00:12:06] And would these be long spells, like weeks or?
Idris [00:12:09] No, probably two weeks.
Annie [00:12:11] Right. Got you.
Idris [00:12:12] You know, now they've got all the gizmos to help you breathe immediately but then it was like *gasps*, you know-.
Annie [00:12:18] Scary, I can imagine.
Idris [00:12:18] Yeah it was so scary, for my mum it was so scary. And it got to a point where actually I had to go to a school that was a bit more adapted to kids that had, you know, medical needs. And that was a life- talk about change, that was a life changing-
Annie [00:12:34] Was that a primary school?
Idris [00:12:36] Yeah, it was a primary school.
Annie [00:12:38] Tell me about that change.
Idris [00:12:40] So I went from a primary school, normal school, where I was always in and out the nurse's office or going to hospital and they just said to me- said to my mum, look, this is really difficult for all of us you know, we're scared that he's going to not get the care he needs in an emergency. So I went to a school called Stormont, which is still there, it's an amazing school for special needs. And, you know, for the most part I'm fine. Running around, kicking a ball, you know like good and then the moment the asthma attack- I'd be done. So I went to the school and, you know, some of the kids had severe special needs so right across the spectrum and I was like, I shouldn't be here, no, this is wrong. But at the time, you know, it ended up being one of the most sort of giving, most incredible experiences of my life. Like, to this day I feel, wow. I got to go to this incredible school where they had such care and attention. The educators were amazing. The facilities were unbelievable. And not to mention, like I learned to play the drums and play the trumpet and, you know, all in this school where they were just so happy to have a kid that was quote unquote, able bodied if you like, that was encouraging to the other kids. You know, I suddenly became the best friend of everyone. And kids that were sort of in themselves would be in the classroom with me and feel- and feel like they were just at school. They didn't have-
Annie [00:14:15] Yeah.
Idris [00:14:16] A special need because I was a boy that wasn't, you know- just changed my whole perception. Like I saw kids that could barely, you know, speak- speak and sing songs, do paintings and I was like what? Like, it just changed my whole, like, mindset. Like to this day, you can't tell me we can't do anything. We're all so lucky and we don't realise it. It's only when you're in that situation where you're looking around and there was such heavy restrictions in some people's lives, yet they are going for it 100%. And it just, man, it changed my life completely.
Annie [00:14:55] I can imagine it changed your perspective as well of, you know, marginalised people. You can imagine it's very levelling when you're in that kind of situation.
Idris [00:15:03] Yeah, completely. You just sort of- you appreciate what you have and appreciate- and you're not looking over the fence of what you haven't got because what you have is enough. And more than enough, you know.
Annie [00:15:16] Did you settle in eventually?
Idris [00:15:18] I did, yeah. I did settle in. It was an adjustment because, you know, all my friends from my other school are just all in the same area and on a weekend I'd see them, and then they'd see me getting on the 'special bus', you know, to go to school. And eventually I did. And I sort of adjusted and was proud to go to an amazing school, I was proud of the education I got, my parents were. I was proud of the friends I made there, you know.
Annie [00:15:53] So you moved in childhood to Canning Town, am I right?
Idris [00:15:58] Yeah.
Annie [00:15:58] From what point was that- did that happen?
Idris [00:16:00] I was probably 13. I just left Stormont and was going to a secondary school. I was still in Hackney. I went to Kingsland, which is the first secondary school. Uniform, big school, mixed and you know, my asthma had settled down and I was, you know, growing into myself. And then two months into that, my parents said we're moving to Canning Town and I'm like, errr what?! Where are we going? Where's Canning Town? I thought it was the other side of the world. And my dad worked in Fords so it was closer to Dagenham for him. But the area was just tough, man. It was like, nothing like Hackney.
Annie [00:16:42] How?
Idris [00:16:42] Hackney was multicultural, you know, every ethnicity lived in Hackney. All my life I was there, all my life. And then I get to Canning Town, and even the architecture was different, it was just like bleak. It was like, you know, small town, industrial town, you know? It was right next to Woolwich, the docks. It just felt like *blows tongue*.
Annie [00:17:09] So was it kind of like rows of terraced houses?
Idris [00:17:11] Yeah, yeah. Rows.
Annie [00:17:12] As opposed to blocks and yeah-
Idris [00:17:16] Blocks and green and- there was no green, it was a concrete jungle. And the people felt distant, you know. And obviously because, you know, Canning Town, a notorious National Front hold, and I just walked into the hardest smack in the face of racism I'd ever- I just didn't know what to do with myself, I was like what is going on here? Like, people would just call you names on the street, just on the street. And I was like what, why are we living here? Anyway, I went to a school, secondary school, first thing I noticed it was a boy school and I was a big lad and they just wanted to pick on me. They just wanted to be like, oh, yeah, you're the new boy here. And that school act-
Annie [00:18:03] Was the school diverse? Did it have black and brown kids in it, like-
Idris [00:18:07] It did, yeah. There was two boys schools, there was Rokeby and there was Trinity, and this is where all the naughty boys got sent to. All of them. As like, the naughty boys got sent to Trinity because the teachers were super tough. It was a boys school, played no games. So I got sent there because proximity to the house my mum and dad bought, but it was just like walking into the army. And as soon as I got there, I was like where are the girls? They were like, *cockney accent* 'there's no girls here son, it's a boys school'. *Laughs* God, I couldn't believe- I was like what's going on?! I can't believe this. Anyway, erm-
Annie [00:18:49] And why did they have it in for you, the pupils?
Idris [00:18:53] I just- I guess, you know, you come from Hackney and you've got swag. I'm from Hackney man! You know what I mean, and I came to Canning Town and everyone's like, 'you're alright mate, chill out' 'alright Bob Marley, relax', like, all day long. I'm thinking to myself, what's going on here. And I also was, you know, overly developed at 12. I was a big kid, growing a moustache by 13, you know what I mean? And like, I feel like all the kids in my age, the best fighter was immediately intimidated and wanted to make sure he could take me down a peg or two. And then the kids above were like who's this geezer, you know? And I just had to- yeah, I had never had a fight, or I had one fight before that but I had never had that sort of violence coming at me. I had to really shape up really quickly.
Annie [00:19:44] Zooming out on that school experience, did you stay there, did you stick it out and-
Idris [00:19:48] I stuck it out.
Annie [00:19:49] Was it okay in the end? Did you manage to find a crew?
Idris [00:19:52] My best friends to this day went to that school. Um, I made friends. I met my drama teacher who put me on the path to my career. I stole a pair of double decks and started DJing on the radio from that school *laughs*.
Annie [00:20:09] Yeah. We've got a lot to thank Trinity for then.
Idris [00:20:13] Trinity was the one still, it ended up being alright. I mean, it was a massive amount of change, but it is a change that actually developed me to the man, I guess.
Annie [00:20:23] Yeah. Can I ask, you know, when you did discover acting, you talk about this drama teacher, how it felt when you started acting for the first time and was there a kind of sense of an epiphany? Was there a sense of coming home? Or maybe I'm just romanticising it, you know?
Idris [00:20:38] Again, you know, my imagination- I was used to talking to myself. You know, always I talk to myself, you know, playing games, cards *pew pew pew* imagination going through the roof. Characters, songs, you know, I just- I was used to it. And then suddenly there was this place where I was allowed to do it in public. And it turns out when you've done 10000 hours of doing that, you're really good. You're really good to a bunch of kids who just don't do that, right?
Annie [00:21:08] Yeah, but what about starting in front of people? Because that's different than being alone in a room.
Idris [00:21:13] Yeah, I, I still to this day, I have this sense- again, I can- it's like an invisible cloak. I just put it up and I'm like, nobody can even see me, even though it's for them. I never forget the first exercise she made us do, miss McPhee, she goes, alright everyone I want you to use your imagination. I want you to lie down on the floor. We're all like *sniggering* lying down on this drama floor, you know? And, you know, it's a boy school so there was like wolf whistling at Miss McPhee. You know, she's attractive so everyone was like ahhhh, lying down. 'I want you to imagine you're in a frying pan', 'what miss?!', 'and I want you to imagine you're a freshly cracked egg, and I want you to crackle and pop like a fried egg'. There was silence and then there was a couple of people, including me, that was *popping sounds* doing all this movement, right. And I lost my self in it. I was a fried egg, I was getting flipped and when I opened my eyes, I looked out, half the boys are just standing there looking at me going, what are you doing, son? Like I jumped all the way into it, and that's when I realised that I'm okay. And in fact, I think I transferred that energy to the kids, that it was okay to do drama. It's okay to be silly. Definitely remember that moment.
Annie [00:22:51] Wow. That's an incredible moment. I love it. And then you ended up at the National Youth Theatre, right? How long were you there and what did that do, I suppose, for young Idris?
Idris [00:23:03] Yes. So it was about the time when I was sort of crystallising that I definitely want to be an actor. I was just leaving school. My drama teacher was, you know, she got me into a YTS scheme at the time to work at a theatre. You know, it was really encouraging and she was like, there's this audition, you can get into the National Youth Music Theatre and be part of a professional play, even though you're not being paid for it, and they take you around the world and perform it. And it was a performance of Guys and Dolls, and so I auditioned and got it. And this is where the Prince's Trust helped me, because you had to pay some money towards your lodge and, you know, the teachings and all that. My parents couldn't afford it, but I managed to get 1500 quid out of Prince's Trust and it changed my life. It completely changed my life. It put a professional lens on my dreams. I was like, what? This is a job? Are you kidding me? And then all these different people who do different parts, to costume, the band, the lighting, I'm just completely wowed. This performance took me- we went to Japan to do it, we did it in front of, I think the Queen maybe, or someone from the royal family, we went to America to perform it. I mean, it really changed me. It was like, what? I'm an actor. This is what I'm doing for a living. It was amazing. And then from that point, you know, you finish school, you do something like that, and then what do you do? So I ended up in college. But at the same time, this is where my DJing and life started happening. You know, I was realising, yo, I can- you know what I mean, I was just growing into a man at that point. So I just had a car, I was on pirate radio, I was DJing in clubs, much to my mom was like whaaat. Mind blown like, you're too young for all this. I was only 16 or 17. But the crossroad between acting and being a DJ- I wanted to be on the radio. I wanted to be a radio personality so I did pirate radio and then this junction came when I was in college. Now, I remember going to college and, you know, I realised that this is a real profession and that you have to really work at it and so I did this two year course that really did everything. A bit of dancing, a bit of direction and it was at that junction that I realised this is what I really, really want to do.
Annie [00:25:39] And you were able to just- you had your path.
Idris [00:25:42] I did. It was there set for me *laughs*.
[00:25:44] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:25:56] Idris, can I ask about- you know you talk about change as a child, looking at your adult life, what would you say was kind of the biggest- one of the biggest changes you've been through?
Idris [00:26:08] My daughter, when she was born.
Annie [00:26:10] How old were you?
Idris [00:26:13] 28, 29. Yeah. And that was a massive change for me.
Annie [00:26:18] How did it change your life?
Idris [00:26:21] Grounded me massively. I mean, really, really, really work hard at my career. I mean, really, like, prior to my daughter coming, I had two or three years really tough in New York when I was living. I was homeless, I was DJing, I was bouncing, I was selling drugs, I was doing everything I could just to survive.
Annie [00:26:42] In New York?
Idris [00:26:43] In New York.
Annie [00:26:44] Yeah.
Idris [00:26:46] And I was auditioning the whole time but I wasn't getting anything. And then, you know, I was married. I got married quite young, and my wife and I went through just a horrible bad time all during the pregnancy. All during that whole time we didn't last and our daughter didn't fix it. It was just a really horrible time. So when she came, I looked her in the eyes, I was like I've got to buck up. Either I leave New York and come home and just get a job with some food on the table, or I fucking work as an actor, chosen, and that's where I got The Wire. And it was the hardest audition period I ever had, it was when I really, really, really focussed in, and that changed my life completely, you know? But being a parent as well, you know, I'm just, you know, I can reflect quite easily on my parenthood. I mean, me as a child and, you know, I've got good and bad memories growing up from my parents parenting but my consciousness about being a parent was like *gasps* I wanted to be the best kind of dad you could be even though the situation wasn't great between mum and me, it was just, I needed to be there for this kid. And yeah, talk about, you know when I was saying earlier, you know, there's decision route paths that your brain has and that you stick to, I had to airlift all of those out in order to be a dad. And that was a big change.
Annie [00:28:19] You have three kids?
Idris [00:28:21] Yes.
Annie [00:28:22] What have you learned about fatherhood as your kids have grown up and, you know, the initial change that fatherhood brings? But I suppose one thing I learned about being a parent is that it never stops. Kids don't stop changing *laughs* and they don't stop changing you in the different, you know, phases of their growth. So, yeah, I suppose what have you learned about being a father, being a parent?
Idris [00:28:48] It's expensive.
Annie [00:28:50] It's fucking *cackles*.
Idris [00:28:55] No *sighs* I think I learned a lot about Idris trying to be a dad. I learn a lot. I always put myself in my kids eyes and wonder what they see. My youngest is a lovely, sensitive soul and we adore each other and I'm always wondering what he sees. And I'm always trying to adjust what he sees. Not to be fake, but to be a great influence for him, a great memory when I'm gone. My old man did this one time. *Laughs* so I'm always adjusting myself and that's definitely something I've learned from being a parent.
Annie [00:29:51] And have you observed what parts of your parents are in you as a parent? Like, this is a thing you do subconsciously, isn't it? You suddenly realise, oh my God, I sound like my mum. Or oh my God- you know? So which bits have have kind of trickled down, I suppose, into the way that you parent?
Idris [00:30:09] Well, I think from my dad's side, I'm goofy. I'm goofy, I want them to laugh and be like, this guy's serious because my dad passed ten years ago and my fondest memories are just him making me laugh, making other people laugh. He's such an intelligent man and I just want my kids to have that similar sort of outlook on me. My mum's side, there's a definite sort of like, I wouldn't say strictness, but I have a little tolerance for sort of bad behaviour. My tolerance for it is not good and you need to be tolerant of bad behaviour because it's not bad behaviour it's just something's are not being explained, some things are not quite understood by kids yet. So I was told you're bad, you're bad, and I can feel myself being like that around my kids sometimes and I will try to adjust that so much. My mum was very organised, is very organised. Like '5:00 it's 5:00!' and that's a good thing that I have, something that I pride on. I haven't always been good at it, but I've always worked hard to impress my mum being organised.
Annie [00:31:36] I watched your speech that you made in parliament, I was feeling for you because 30 minutes you spoke in parliament about diversity in media and films, and you talked a lot about change in that speech and you kind of focus on this idea, you know, as opposed to pinpointing, you know, there's not enough black people in films, it was more about people's mindsets and how we needed a diversity in thinking. And I wondered if you had a moment in your life where you had to change your mindset in order to progress. Like where something happened where you're like, I have to fucking change how I think or how I approach myself.
Idris [00:32:09] I've been in therapy for the last-
Annie [00:32:14] Since when?
Idris [00:32:14] I'd say, about a year now.
Annie [00:32:17] Well, me too, I've just started.
Idris [00:32:19] Really yeah? It's a lot right?
Annie [00:32:21] It's just that bit at the start where they don't say anything. My whole entire life has been filling silence. I'm a radio DJ!
Idris [00:32:28] Filling silence.
Annie [00:32:29] So I'm just like blablablabla *Idris laughing* I go in feeling stressed about the silence. It's like, is this right? I don't feel like I should be stressed about- anyway. I'm stressed about going- therapy is stressing me out!
Idris [00:32:40] That's just the beginning part, because I felt the same.
Annie [00:32:42] Okay. I need to stick it out.
Idris [00:32:43] You do yeah and it's probably good to go through that because once you start getting comfortable with the silences, that's where the magic starts to happen. That's where the connectivity routes of like, you know, things that you want to change start to change because you're like, it's okay to be silent... while I think about what I'm about to say next. And, you know, that's definitely- in my therapy I've been thinking a lot about changing, almost to the point of neuropaths being changed and shifting. And It's not because I don't like myself or anything like that, it's just that I have some unhealthy habits that I've just really formed and they, you know, I work in an industry that I'm rewarded for those unhealthy habits. I'm rewarded for that, you know, whether it's to be selfish or to be- I'm a workaholic. I'm an absolute workaholic. And that isn't great for life generally. Nothing that's too extreme is good. Everything needs balance. But I'm rewarded massively to be a workaholic, to someone that can go, oh, I'm not going see my family for six months. I'm in there grinding and making new family and then leave them. You know, those are pathways that I had to be like, I've got to adjust. Got to adjust. So I've been thinking about this a lot and oddly enough, you know, a lot of our childhood is really at the root of it. Even though we grow into an adult, the parts that grow are the physicality of us, but the mindset remains childlike for a long time. You grow, it changes because your experiences changes but once you've learned as a kid that you know, someone yells at you and you shh- like that's going to be your footprint and it takes time and nurture to get that out as a thing. So yeah, there's multiple things that I've definitely had to shift and I've been thinking of it and cognitive of the shifts that I have to make.
Annie [00:35:00] Yeah. And can you see a time in the future where you will work less? Or is it already happening?
Idris [00:35:08] Erm, work less *kisses teeth* come on.
Annie [00:35:12] It's this thing isn't it, rest is radical, this idea of kind of, you know, like seeing rest as productive. I'm trying to do that myself at the moment, like allowing rest to be something that- and not rest like sitting on your arse, but rest like going for a long swim or, you know something that isn't like- something that is for you and relaxing.
Idris [00:35:32] Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Yeah, I definitely want to adopt that, but the thing is that the things that make me relaxed end up being work. You know, this is my studio in my house and I just love being in here. I'll open that laptop and be like, I don't know what to make today and today it will come out like this and one like that and I'm exhilarated by that. I'm also relaxed by it I just- I could have worked ten days on a film, underwater sequences holding my breath for 6 minutes and come back and sit here and be like- more so than sitting on the sofa watching TV with the family, which is bad right? And this is the part where I've got to sort of normalise, if you like, what makes me relaxed. Can't be all work.
[00:36:21] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:36:31] What is the change you'd still like to make for your life moving forwards?
Idris [00:36:35] The change I'd like to make is to take a deep breath when I have nothing to do and not feel anxious about it. Just sit still and be okay with that. And I know that when I was a kid sitting still was boredom. It was because I was told off. It was because I've got no one to play with as I'm an only child, and it just fills me with anxiety. I've got to do something, I've got to do something, gotta make something, gotta build something, I've got to- and I've brought that into my adulthood and as I said, you know, it's rewarded me lovely but I've got to chill sometimes. I've got to just be able to sit still and not do much and I think my family, my wife, my kids, we all are a bit like me, scattered, running around, wanting to do a million things. And I think that's the change I'd like to offer now, if I could.
Annie [00:37:39] You mentioned a couple of times in this conversation about the work that you do, taking little bits of you and you know, you're putting little bits of you out in the world acting. If you think about the amount of films and movies, that's a lot of little bits of you out in the world, similarly with music. How do you keep yourself to yourself when you're putting so much of yourself out all the time as part of your job, as part of your existence, how do you retain the bits of you that are the most important?
Idris [00:38:08] I guess I try to stay out of the loop a bit. Thatt's one thing that like- I was trying to teach younger actors to just remember that you're acting and you're being paid for it. Outside of that, they're not paying you to be you. So be you in private. Just enjoy you and it will make your performances resonate even more because they can't see you. It's always worked for me. You know, that the more I do things in my real life that enrich me, the better I am as an actor.
Annie [00:38:52] Does your mummy still worry about you, Idris?
Idris [00:38:54] Ohhh yeah. I think she text me this morning and said, have you brushed your teeth?... Yes? *Laughs*.
Annie [00:39:03] Idris Elba, thank you so, so much.
Idris [00:39:06] You're welcome Annie, it was really good speaking to ya. Thanks for that.
Annie [00:39:12] Do please rate, review and subscribe to Changes. It is so appreciated and if you fancy sharing it on social media too, that would be amazing. The more people we can get listening to these episodes the better, we want to tell our stories far and wide. Changes is produced by Louise Mason through DIN Productions. Thanks for listening!