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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 4 March 2021

Idris Elba was surprised he had a strong fan base in Saudi Arabia

In a new KSA talk show, the actor also shared some of his top acting tips

Idris Elba in Berlin in 2018. EPA
Idris Elba in Berlin in 2018. EPA

Idris Elba was surprised to discover that he had a strong fan base in the region, when he visited Saudi Arabia in 2018.

“I found Saudi was warm and welcoming to me, in a surprising way, if I’m honest,” the English actor said on Saturday, June 13, during the inaugural episode of a new talk show produced by the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra).

He went on to explain that it was, “surprising because I wasn’t sure if my work had ever resonated in Saudi,” Elba said in an interview with Saudi director Ali Alsumayin, who replied that Elba did indeed have a big fan base in the Kingdom.

Elba travelled to Saudi in 2018 to promote the opening of its film, music and entertainment industry. During the interview with Ithra, the actor said that the trip was quick and brief, but that he was eager to return to Saudi Arabia soon.

The award-winning actor was the first guest of the Ithra Dialogues: Up Close With interview series.

As part of the series, a number of celebrities and experts in various fields – including film, science, design, architecture, and fashion – will participate in live discussions, which will be streamed on Ithra’s YouTube page. The discussions will also include questions from audience members, who can submit their queries on YouTube or through the Twitter hashtag #ithratalks.

The second session of the series is scheduled for Saturday, June 20, and will feature renowned US astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson. The third session will take place on Saturday, June 27, and will host the prominent international architect and Snohetta Founding Partner Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, who will be joined by the head of the Ithra Advisory Group, Fatmah Alrashid.

During the hour-long talk, Elba spoke about his experiences as an actor, reminding everyone hoping to work in the film industry to “throw your soul and your heart to every aspect of what you do,” but also advising them to learn the technical know-how.

Referring to the series Luther, the English actor said portraying the eponymous murder detective did often take a personal toll.

“To play John Luther, I have to give him a part of my soul that I suppress myself. Like a dark, angry, haunted part of my soul. Probably everybody has a part of their soul which is darker. And for me to merge with Luther, I give him that for three or four months,” Elba said of the TV character he played between 2010 and 2019.

He said that his portrayal of the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and political leader Nelson Mandela required a different, more technical approach.

“He was a real man, an icon to the human race,” Elba said. “It was a very different type of research. On one side I had to learn a whole language Xhosa, which was his mother tongue. I also spent a night in Robben Island prison to understand what it was like for him to be there for 19 years.”

Elba also had some words of encouragement for budding filmmakers in the region, saying, “you may fall over, stand up and fall again, but be consistent. Be innovative of the technicalities of what you’d like to do – whether as an actor or as a filmmaker.”

Updated: June 14, 2020 01:51 PM

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