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Idris Elba Says Playing Villainous Characters is Therapuetic

Idris Elba Says Playing Villainous Characters is Therapuetic

Idris Elba said this week that inhabiting “completely socially unacceptable” characters feels like therapy, but that great villains are perhaps more indebted to their writer than the actor who brought them to life.

“These people get to say things that we only think in the deepest, darkest recesses of our brains,” Elba told the Wall Street Journal of “bad guy” roles. “They say horrible things and scream horrible things and get to be completely socially unacceptable. As an actor, that’s sometimes a gift, sometimes a bit of therapy.”

Elba has played several notoriously terrible characters over the years, including the villains in Beasts of No Nation (2015), Hobbs & Shaw (2019) and The Harder They Fall (2021).

Of course, part of the effectiveness of a characters’ most villainous qualities, Elba said, is that they “tend to be well-written.”

“When you see a really interesting bad guy, you’re going to think about the actor, but think about the writer,” he said. “It’s the writer who’s dark. You’ve got to give him or her a hug.”

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Elsewhere in the profile, Elba weighed in on how he makes decisions regarding his next roles. “I guess I’m one of those actors who believe acting is acting,” he said. “I don’t really have a formula for what to choose. If I resonate with the character, I don’t have a hierarchy. Is the writing good? Is it something I’ve done before? Can I disappear in the role?”

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