Idris Elba stars in Neil Cross’s first, thrilling, six-part series Luther, a dark psychological crime thriller that took a bold new look at the detective genre on BBC One in May 2010.
Elba, best known for his performance in the award-winning HBO series The Wire, playing drug kingpin Russell “Stringer” Bell, now finds himself on the other side of the law as John Luther, a near-genius murder detective whose brilliant mind can’t always save him from the dangerous violence of his passions.
Ruth Wilson is Alice Morgan, beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent and a key witness in Luther’s first investigation. Indira Varma is Zoe Luther, who’s had the strength to walk away from the man she still loves. Paul McGann is Mark North, unafraid to compete with Luther for Zoe’s love. Steven Mackintosh is DCI Ian Reed, a loyal friend. Saskia Reeves is DSU Rose Teller, Luther’s risk-taking boss, and Warren Brown is DS Justin Ripley, Luther’s loyal, awestruck new partner.
In each exciting and fast-moving story, the murderer’s identity is known from the start – focussing the drama on the psychic duel between hunter and quarry, who sometimes have more in common than either would like to think.
Says Neil: “Luther is an intense psychological thriller which examines not only human depravity but the complex nature of love … and how it’s often this – our finest attribute – that leads us into darkness.”
Luther was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller BBC Drama Commissioning, and Jay Hunt, then Controller of BBC One. The BBC executive producer was Phillippa Giles and the producer was Katie Swinden.
Praise and Awards
Winner, Luther, Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Teleplay in 2010 (Episode 1).
Nominee, Luther, Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Teleplay in 2010 (Episode 4).
Nominee, Idris Elba, Golden Globe® Award, Best Performance By An Actor in a Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television 2010.
Nominee, Idris Elba, Primetime Emmy Award, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Winner, Idris Elba, NAACP Image Award, Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Specials.
Nominee, Luther, NAACP Image Award, Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special.
“Elba gives a splendid portrayal of a tormented man, and Wilson, a veteran of many British productions, has a chilling cool that will make it hard for viewers to take their eyes off her. For viewers who lament the lack of high-level Brit drama on U.S. TV, here’s one good answer.”
New York Daily News (see full review)
“…the actors’ skill — and Cross’ admirable ability to explore his characters’ boundaries without either calcifying or forsaking them — allows “Luther” to be superhuman in both the ordinary and extraordinary sense.
Los Angeles Times (see full review)
“…the man who was Stringer Bell still delivers a knockout performance in this British crime drama. It’s another one of those shows like Cracker or Touching Evil, where the cop is as damaged and dangerous as the criminals he’s chasing (in this case, Ruth Wilson as a charming sociopath), and it’s a reminder of why the Brits keep going back to that well and how strong a presence Elba is in any accent.”
Hit Fix (see full review) http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching/posts/press-tour-the-best-new-shows-i-saw?m=k
“A police procedural with a black British detective in the lead will seem exotic to many American viewers, but what’s most striking about BBC America’s Idris Elba vehicle “Luther” is that it’s — finally! — a cop show devoted fully to the investigation and to the characters doing the investigating. It’s not just all about the lab work.”
Hollywood Reporter (see full review)
“At first perusal, a drama about a tormented−but−brilliant cop whose ethics code doesn’t require cleaning up as much as fumigation would seem like an old, familiar destination. … And yet, when the cop is played by Idris Elba (Stringer Bell of “The Wire”) and his mind−meld is happening with a murderer who looks like a gangster’s moll, quotes Bertrand Russell and sounds like Judi Dench, the stamp on your passport starts to look decidedly novel.”
New York Times (see full review)
“We haven’t seen a crime drama boasting a freighted relationship quite like this one, sustained over an extended period through a flirtatious battle of wits. Creator and writer Neil Cross explores tricky dramatic territory, with suspense, crackling dialogue and a talented cast.”
Sunday Denver Post (see full review)
“The series is addictive; rife with twisty tension, it also benefits from a truly fascinating performance by Elba. You’ll be left clamoring for more, and you may be in luck, as “Luther’s” cliff-hanger of a finale seems to signal a sequel.”
San Antonio Express News (see full review)
“With the tormented Luther, it’s sometimes tough even to identify who is the cat and who is the mouse. Writing and acting come together to produce characters, more than stories, who are powerful, surprising, ambiguous, and all that other stuff.”
Philadelphia Inquirer (see full review)
Idris on John Luther
Idris Elba provides some insight into Luther’s world: “Luther is a modern spin on the maverick detective, an unorthodox, very smart, intellectual guy, but also passionate about his work and about the cases that he fights for.”
In terms of his character Idris explains: “Luther can’t help but get emotionally involved in his cases and, as a result, when we first meet him, you realise quickly he’s been working on one case far too long. What we see as the series continues is a man trying to get back into his stride and back on top of his game.
“He is a compassionate man that believes in his job. He has a good understanding of human beings and the psychology of human beings, especially those that do wrong.
“You see a man that is fantastic at solving crime, fantastic at risk assessment and fantastic at figuring out why you did it then you see him stumbling when it comes to dealing with his personal life.”
Read more from Idris on the BBC website.
Neil on Luther
“In crime fiction there are two broad genres – one is the mystery genre, the puzzle-solving genre, and that’s where there tends to be a genius detective, a lone maverick, or an eccentric. This is the tradition best exemplified by people like Sherlock Holmes.
“The second tradition involves a much more morally committed, a much more beaten and bruised central hero figure. That’s the tradition best exemplified by people like Philip Marlowe. What I have never seen, what I’ve never read or seen on television, was a character who exemplified both of these primary traits.”
So the idea for DCI John Luther began to form, but what about the rest of the series?
“It was the character who came to me first, this man who exemplified this distant intellectual puzzle-solving detective, married with this kind of bruised moral crusader.
“It seemed to me that the best way for us really to engage with him, and to see his world through his eyes, was to see the moral outrages that he deals with – in order to understand the cost that these crimes have on him. To that end I took a leaf from Detective Columbo’s book and made the story not a ‘whodunnit?’, but a ‘how catch him?’
“We see the brutality, we see the violence, we see the aftermath and then we see Luther going after his criminal. We see his brilliance, his frustration, his anger, we see his insight and we also often see his moral compromise.”
Read more about the creation of Luther on the BBC website here.
Idris Elba photograph © Gene Kiegel