Idris Elba: British actors are only taken seriously when they do Shakespeare

The actor said he found working in America “really liberating” after experiencing what he saw as a stifling cultural environment in England.

Idris Elba is undeniably one of the most successful British actors of his generation. The five-time Emmy nominee has been successful on stage and screen; he’s been in one of TV’s biggest series and was once a frontrunner for James Bond (before he dropped out of the running).

Despite being considered one of the highest honors an English film star can achieve, Elba owes much of his acting success to his move to the United States. In a new interview with him Noblehe reflected that working in America made it easier for him to find his artistic niche.

“America gave me technical knowledge of my craft,” Elba said. “It was an improvement. I learned a lot. American actors have always been great. Shakespeare’s works live in the language of wonder, poetry, fable, beauty and eloquence. The performer uses a skill set that amplifies this. He has an air and a grace that a good English actor should understand. In America, in an Arthur Miller play, you can get a guy who is just a guy: a guy from Pennsylvania, a guy from New York – just a guy, a man. This was the relationship American actors had with real life. The accent and cadence of words in America makes for a really interesting train of thought.”

In addition to the artistic benefits, Elba also appreciates the way American actors can gain critical acclaim for their work in various genres. He compared it to what he saw as a restrictive environment in England, where Shakespearean actors were consistently held in higher regard than mainstream film and television stars.

“I did a children’s TV show in England and then a soap opera,” he said. “But unless I’m doing Shakespeare or something classy like that that’s outside of my actual culture, I’m not going to make it as an actor in this country. In America, he felt the sky was the limit. You didn’t have to do Shakespeare to be a good actor. I found it very liberating.”

Elba’s voice skills can currently be seen in the Oscar-nominated animated short The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse, just one of a long line of diverse roles the actor has landed.

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