Idris Elba Once Demanded Writers to Rewrite His Exit From ‘The Wire’: ‘I Was Pissed Off’

One of actor Idris Elba’s most notable and recognizable roles is Stringer Bell from The Wire. It brought the star much critical acclaim and attention, catapulting a Hollywood career that he still currently enjoys.

But Elba didn’t become the versatile actor he is today by stating on The Wire. The star was originally written off the show. But the initial ending for his popular character had Elba livid, and the actor demanded a rewrite.

Idris Elba had a tough time before landing ‘The Wire’

Idris Elba smiling while giving a thumbs up.
Idris Elba | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Much of Elba’s success can be attributed to starring in the hit HBO series. Before the Beasts of No Nation actor portrayed the suave drug lord, Elba revealed he was having trouble finding work.

“It was a wickedly tough time. I lived in a van for about three months,” Elba told Playboy (via CBS News). “I’d had three or four years of unemployment, not getting acting jobs. I was watching Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes and saying, ‘I can do that. I can be right there with them.’ My (then) wife was about eight and a half months pregnant by the time I got the news I was going to be on The Wire. If I didn’t get it, I was going to leave the U.S. We knew that if I didn’t have acting work after my daughter was born we would be up [expletive] street.”

Idris Elba hated the writers’ original ending for Stringer Bell

As most fans of the show know, Elba only lasted on The Wire for three seasons. But writing off Elba’s Stringer from the show wasn’t a decision that came easy. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Wire showrunner David Simon committed to the idea despite pushback against it.

“Stringer and Colvin [played by Robert Wisdom] are both from different sides trying to reform the drug war, and it’s unreformable,” Simon said. “It belongs to the gangsters and to the career cops who want to get paid, and so Colvin and Stringer needed to have the same arc, thematically, to make the political point. And at a point at which you let a character or charisma or any of that stuff dictate the story you’re telling, you’re kind of becoming a hack.”

However, Elba initially wasn’t happy with the sendoff for his character. Stringer was originally supposed to be shot dead, with the character’s body being urinated on afterward. When he first learned of Stringer’s fate, Elba wasn’t having it.

“I was pissed,” Elba said before telling Simon how he felt. “I told him it was absolute tragedy, that it was sensational, and that it wasn’t going to happen.”

Elba’s reaction convinced Simon to change the script, and rewrite Elba’s sendoff in a more fitting way.

Idris Elba didn’t want to be typecast after his role on ‘The Wire’

Elba made a personal career choice to play characters that were different from his Stringer Bell. The Suicide Squad alum felt it was important for his development as an actor, even though it might have meant walking away from easy paydays.

“I could have played Stringer Bell-type characters forever,” he said in an interview with The Mirror. “I could be on the telly right now, in my own show, earning 150 grand an episode.”

But Elba went down a different path.

“But the truth is, the films coming my way do not bear any resemblance to the writing I’ve been accustomed and privileged to do – The Wire being obviously the flagship of that,” he explained.

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