Idris Elba's latest acting endeavor has nothing to do with detectives or high-risk crimes. Instead, the actor, who's admired for his more serious roles, is trading his badge (or, if you're a fan of The Wire, his trafficking ways), for a turntable in Netflix's new comedy series, Turn Up Charlie, in which he portrays a struggling 40-something-year-old DJ who's desperate for his big break.
So, how does he go from catching bad guys to dropping dope beats? The answer actually hits home more than you might think. Parts of Turn Up Charlie are based on a true story, also known as Elba's real life. You read that correctly. Before he launched his acting career, Elba spent much of his teens and 20s spinning records. "I got into it because my uncle was a DJ — he did weddings and whatnot," Elba told the Associated Press. "So when I was 14, I would travel with him wherever he went, lift the record boxes. When he decided he was a bit tired, I would take over — that was how I got in." He's even had some pretty funny DJ names, including one based off of an English cake company, Mr. Kipling.
Elba eventually graduated to the moniker "Big Driis." His gigs got more sophisticated, too. Last year, Elba performed a set at the Royal Wedding.
But his love of DJ culture isn't the only similarity he shares with his new character, Charlie. Desperate for any glimmer of success, Charlie reluctantly agrees to care for his famous pal David's (JJ Field) strong-willed, 11-year-old daughter, Gabby (Frankie Hervey). Elba has said being a dad and raising kids while in the public eye helped shape his onscreen role.
"I love DJs, and I love the culture of it, and I wanted to figure out a way to put it up there... but you have to find a way in to humanize it and make it relatable," Elba told E! News. "This is where being a parent and the experiences of raising my kids, being around my daughter, influenced this."
His daughter, Isan, also played a valuable — though indirect — role in determining the overall direction for the eight-part series.
"There was, at first, the tropes of daddy day care, that kind of thing. But then, we really tried to dig a little deeper around the sensitivities of being a girl and having parents who live in celebrity culture," Elba later explained. "We really wanted to peel the onion back on that a little bit. It's not really about a young girl who has a celebrity dad; it's about parenting." Elba says he was inspired by his daughter: "she's intelligent, she's smart, she's challenging, and that's what we wanted to put in."
"My daughter and I have a relationship where I treat her more like an equal; she gets exposed to the reality of life," he said.
While he's never been a manny, Elba is confident that he'd impress both the parents and the kids. "I'd be parent-friendly, meaning I'd do everything you want me to do as a parent, but I'd be fun for the kids," he told Fatherly. "It'd fit into the family aesthetic and chemistry. I'd be adventurous and take kids to do something they wouldn't ordinarily do."
Imagine the Sexiest Man Alive making mac and cheese for your kids. Chances are you'd find plenty of excuses to stick around the house.
Being a dad and a DJ are about where the similarities between Elba and Charlie end, however, evidenced by his massive successes in Hollywood and Charlie's, well, lack of successes. In addition to starring in Turn Up Charlie, Elba recently directed the film Yardie and is set to star in The Suicide Squad sequel.
Doting dad, DJ, director, producer, actor, and general heartthrob — is there anything Elba can't do?