The Thin Blue Line: Idris Elba’s Performances on Both Sides of the Law


By Jenni Wright

To the vast American masses, Idris Elba is the guy who replaced Michael Scott’s boss on the US version of The Office.  But to those who have studied “The Wire” like the TV bible that it is, Elba will always and forever be Stringer Bell, a Baltimore criminal with the mind of economist and the progressive business savvy of Steve Jobs.  Elba returned to (great) television with another stand out performance in the dark and morally ambiguous “Luther” as a cop.  Read on to understand how Elba was able to capture both sides of the law.

Warning: Contains Plot Spoilers for “The Wire” and “Luther”



Stringer Bell – starts off as a second in command drug kingpin for the Barksdale Organization in “The Wire” and takes over the operation when best friend and boss Avon Barksdale goes to jail.

John Luther – Luther is a detective in London’s Serious Crime Unit (SCU) and arguably the most talented police officer on the force.  Luther uses his intelligence and ability to get into the mind of the criminal to solve crimes, whilst bending a few rules along the way.

Character’s early crime that sets the tone for the series

Stringer Bell – Stringer Bell arranges the hit on a low ranking member of his gang, Wallace, who he correctly suspects is informing the police about the Barksdale operation.  Wallace’s fate leads to one of the best scenes in television “Where’s Wallace?.”

John Luther – Luther “lets” a child murderer (Henry Madsen) die in the opening scene of the series rather than save him from falling off a ledge.

Propensity for violence


Stringer Bell – Although Stringer leaves the dirty work to his lieutenants, he earns a lifetime achievement award for hits ordered in Baltimore and a rat bastard award for attempting to put a hit out on best friend and boss Avon Barksdale.

John Luther – If allowing someone to die and repeatedly threatening to harm criminals is violent, then yes, John Luther is very violent.

Unorthodox work philosophy

Stringer Bell – Strives to turn his organized crime business into a legitimate business operation.

John Luther – Engages in criminal activities in order to catch criminals.

Didn’t see that coming


Stringer Bell – Stringer uses Robert’s Rules of Order to run a meeting of the drug king co-op that he founded in his neighborhood.

John Luther – Luther befriends cold blooded murder Alice Morgan after he fails to prosecute her for killing her parents.


Stringer Bell – Grandpa glasses, a crisp blue button down shirt and dress pants.

John Luther – A heavy tweed coat and a scowl.  Also, rocks some gritty British facial hair.

Greatest line


Stringer Bell- “Is you taking notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy? What the fuck is you thinking?”

John Luther – “Don’t you ever worry that you’re on the devil’s side without even knowing it?”

Proof that Idris Elba is the man

Idris Elba has DJed at parties for Michael Jordan.

Jenni Wright lives in Los Angeles and regrettably knows where Wallace is.  

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