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and shortened his first name to "Idris" at school in Canning Town, where he first became involved in acting.
He credits The Stage with giving him his first big break, having seen an advertisement for a play in it; he auditioned and met his first agent while performing in the role.
He played a central character in an episode of Season 1, an African petty thief named Charlie Carter, who lost his (white) wife to childbirth and had to figure out how to support his newborn daughter.
His first named role arrived earlier in 1995, when he was cast as a gigolo on the "Sex" episode of Absolutely Fabulous.
Many supporting roles on British television followed, including series such as The Bill and The Ruth Rendell Mysteries.
Elba also starred alongside Abraham Attah in the film Beasts of No Nation which premiered in select theaters and on Netflix.
From 2002 to 2004, Elba portrayed Russell "Stringer" Bell in the series, perhaps his best-known role in the United States.
In 2005, he portrayed Captain Augustin Muganza in Sometimes in April, an HBO film about the Rwandan Genocide.
In 2007, Elba signed on as the lead role of the film Daddy's Little Girls, playing Monty, a blue-collar mechanic who falls in love with an attorney helping him gain custody of his kids, and finds the relationship and his custody hopes threatened by the return of his former wife.
He appeared in 28 Weeks Later (2007) and This Christmas (2007), which brought in nearly million at the box office in 2007.