The MJ5: Idris Elba on Kickboxing, Stargazing in Africa, and His Top Travel Spots

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JULY 07: Idris Elba performs onstage during the 2018 Essence Festival -Day 2 at Louisiana Superdome on July 7, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Paras Griffin/WireImage)
Paras Griffin/WireImage

Over the course of his two decade-plus acting career, Idris Elba has proven he can play any type of role. Whether it’s the business-savvy drug kingpin String Bell in The Wire, the sometimes line-crossing detective John Luther in Luther, or the genetically-enhanced, villainous mercenary Brixton in Hobbs & Shaw, Elba feels comfortable taking on complex characters. In fact, those are the characters he loves playing the most.

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“As an actor, you want to be challenged in your roles,” Elba tells Men’s Journal. “Even if you’re playing a bad guy or a villain, the character likely doesn’t see himself that way. I enjoy getting to take on various types of roles and seeing how those characters will react in certain situations. The variation is the excitement for me as an actor.”

British actor Idris Elba poses on arrival for the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Opera House in London on February 14, 2016. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Another exciting part of Elba’s life as an actor is getting to travel to shoot movies and TV shows, something he got to do quite a bit for Hobbs & Shaw. The Fast & Furious spinoff filmed around the world, including in Hawaii, Scotland, England, and California, bringing the franchise to places it’s never been.

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Elba spoke with Men’s Journal about his favorite places to travel, how he trains, his favorite drink, and more for the MJ5.

On his favorite travel spot: “I love being in Africa, and visiting there whether it’s for a shoot or for a vacation. It has a completely different experience for me than in Western places in the world. From a horizon point of view, it’s the biggest sky you’ve ever seen. There are amazing vistas, and incredible views of stars in that part of the world. You’ve never seen stars like you see in Africa.”

On his favorite workout: “I love kickboxing and fight training, whether it’s for a movie or just myself. Doing it for real was really intense, but I loved it. Kickboxing workouts are great, I try and practice or get in a session a few times per week if I can. I’ll sometimes do drills working on my high-kick and my low-kick for a few rounds each, and I’ll also do some regular sparring exercises.”

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On his favorite drink: “Varies based on where I am and what I’m doing. I like a good beer, but I also enjoy a glass of whiskey when I get the chance.”

On his favorite meal: “I keep it simple for breakfast. A lot of times it’ll just be some cereal and eggs. I’m looking for energy in the morning. Steak and eggs are my favorite, simple but wonderful.”

On the best advice he’s received: “My dad gave me the best advice I’ve heard. He told me to make sure to look people in the eye when you speak to them. That it gives you a sense of where they look at you when they talk to you. It has been one of the best pieces of advice for me. If you look someone in the eyes, you get a sense of who they are. If someone tends to look away, they can be hard to read or it means they’re not engaging with you.”

Check out the MJ5 archives for interviews with ice climber Will Gadd, legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk, actors Chris Evans, Joel Kinnaman, and Kyle Chandler, and more.

Idris Elba as Stringer Bell in The Wire

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