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Considering An American Version Of 'Luther'... Who Would Star?

by Tambay A. Obenson
June 17, 2013 2:22 PM
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Has American television ever seen a character like John Luther - as played by Idris Elba in the hit BBC One series, Luther? The genius, emotionally-impulsive detective tormented by humanity's darker side, complicatedly-drawn and incisively brought to life on screen by Mr Elba.

I can't think of anything close to what Luther brings - what those of us who are fans of the series (especially here in the USA), really appreciate about it, since that kind of a complex character in a detective series like Luther, is painfully lacking on American television, and has been for a long time. And we have to look across the pond for him.

Granted, Luther wasn't originally scripted as a black man. Luther could've been any race, color, ethnicity, etc. Idris just happens to be black, and his *blackness* doesn't really have any influence on the individual story strands of the series, and each of its episodes - something that I think also adds to its appeal.

At least, that hasn't happened thus far - where skin color becomes a character, or a deliberate focus in an episode of the series; and I don't think that'll change in the upcoming third season. You'll recall that Idris Elba has long stressed that he isn't necessarily interested in being "the black actor," or in playing "black characters," or starring in "black films" that tell "black stories."

But I digress... a bit.

With Luther going into its 3rd and final season this fall, I've heard rumors that an American TV network might be looking to pick it up and continue the series, likely with Luther as a black American character.

Now before I go one, let me emphasize that these are just RUMORS! I don't have any confirmation of this whatsoever. None! So if any other sites pick up on this story, please don't quote this as fact, with S&A as your source.

Again, nothing but rumors.

But that's really not the main focus of this post.

One might automatically assume that IF an American TV network (whether cable TV or broadcast) were interested in adapting the show for American audiences, that Idris would star. Unfortunately, Idris has already pretty much said that he won't be returning for another season of the BBC series, because, first, he really wants to take the character from the small screen to the big screen next, producing and starring in a Luther feature film. And secondly, he wants to do other things.

It's actually a perfect set-up if you ponder it. Luther season 3 (its final season on the BBC) ends later this year; the Luther feature is packaged and financed for a 2014 shoot; it debuts in 2015; and right around that time, some TV network (hopefully a cable TV network like HBO, Showtime, AMC, FX, etc) announce that they've ordered an American version of the series, taking advantage of all the ongoing publicity, and feeding into fan frenzy, as the feature film opens in theaters. Or maybe the announcement is made at around the same time that the feature project is.

Of course, again, all of this is completely hypothetical, so just humor me and play along!

The question I have for you all is this: if an American adaptation of Luther were to happen, what black American actor would you like to see play Luther?

I recall when the first trailer for Blair Underwood's Ironside reboot surfaced, some suggested that Ironside as a black man may have been in reaction to the success of Luther in the USA. I don't really know about that actually. But maybe. Underwood has had a first-look deal with NBCUniversal since The Event, which included an item stating that they would create at least one series around him. So this Ironside reboot is an attempt. I just can't say that it's reason for being is indeed influenced by Luther's success.

Keep in mind that, even though many of us are fans of Luther, and have been following the series since its first season a couple of years ago, it's still not as popular a show as you'd think. A lot of us haven't even heard of it. And I mean black people specifically. So there's still room for it to grow as more folks discover it. But my point is that I'm not sure if it's been a popular enough show, with impressive ratings, that it would inspire a TV studio exec to want to mimic its success, since they seem to love to do that - copy something that's already been successful.

But again, if you were to make a short list of actors you'd love to see star in an Americanized Luther series, what black American actors would be on it?

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  • al | September 14, 2013 6:28 AMReply

    Sorry for all typos, folks. I'm still trying to get used to these touch screen keypads. Iwas in an accident and dont have ful use of my hands either. So, it makes it a bit more challenging. I hope it doesnt put you guys off.

  • al | September 14, 2013 6:26 AMReply

    Or another good choice for alice, depending on how well she could do an american accent, the actress who plays hg wells on warehouse 13. She was also in dexter for a season. She has the perfevt blend of beauty, sexy and can look sinister as seen on dexter. Her name is jaime murray. Or it may be murry...not sure on spelling, but she has the perfect look for alice. Check her out and tell me i'm wrong. :) this is fyn...specularing like this. I loved luther and am bummed it's over. So i want an american adaptaruon sorely! Please! Lol!

  • al | September 14, 2013 6:04 AMReply

    I would love to see jaime hector get a shot at playing luther. His experience as marlo shiwed he can go to the dark places luther goes to mentally. But if i were in charge of adapting to american tv, don cheadle would be my 1st choice hehas the acting chops and the name recognition. If i was forced to pick a white actor for luther, i'd go with another wire alum, i know he's not american, but it didnt affect him as tommy carcetti so i dont see why it would hinder him as an american version of luther. Aidan gillen would be my 1stcgoice

  • al | September 14, 2013 6:12 AM

    For alice, i was thinking about, since after the 1st couple of eps, alice is more of a cameo type of role, a big name star would probably take the role...maybe an ann hathaway, jessica chastain or a charlize theron? If whatever network insisted on Lesser known or a "tv" actresses? Maybe a jennifer beals? Thoughts?

  • emylie_bo_bemylie | June 19, 2013 12:13 PMReply

    Viola Davis

  • Muse | June 21, 2013 1:32 PM

    I see Olivia Pope as sort of a female Luther. Scandal and Luther mirror each other in a lot of ways: complex black authority figure with a multicultural support cast and intriguing sidekick (Huck/Alice). As for an actual actress to play Luther in an American version...hmmm, not feeling it.

  • emylie_bo_bemylie | June 19, 2013 12:20 PM

    I don't know if she could do it, but I'd audition Mo'Nique, to see.

  • emylie_bo_bemylie | June 19, 2013 12:15 PM

    or maybe Anika Noni Rose

  • Marley82 | June 18, 2013 10:01 AMReply

    Why does everything have to be remade in an American version? Please don't do it. It's just fine with Edris with Americans watching him. I don't think anyone could do it just, I love the entire cast just the way it is!

  • Christa Evans | June 18, 2013 6:26 AMReply

    I hate to burst everyone's bubble, but according to insiders, Wentworth Miller pretty much is having this upcoming US adaptation written for him. I think he's a great fit for it. And from what I hear, the "Alice" character will be re-imagined as "a prodigious youth with criminal tendencies".

  • Mandla | June 18, 2013 9:20 PM

    Noooooononononon. Wentworth no way. Prodigious youth. Where's the tension? No need to include the youth here. Luther should be strictly adult fare. That sucks if it's true. I'm not bashing Wentworth I just don't think this needs to be re-d0ne.

  • Africameleon | June 18, 2013 2:22 AMReply

    Luther (USA) staring ...... Idris Elba. :)

  • Cammie | June 21, 2013 7:01 AM

    Who's that?

  • Dankwa Brooks | June 18, 2013 2:02 AMReply

    Yeah Tambay you ever publish anything about Luther's ratings on BET? I was wondering if their audiences "got it".

  • Miles Ellison | June 17, 2013 8:57 PMReply

    Luther is a great show, but there wouldn't be much of an audience for this. When it aired on BET, I'm sure there were a lot of people wondering why Stringer Bell was a cop with a funny accent.

    The pickings are slim as far as black actors are concerned. The Luther character is way beyond the skill set of most popular black American actors. There are less popular black actors who could pull it off, but nobody would watch. There's not a lot of demand for black complexity on American television.

  • Muse | June 21, 2013 1:26 PM

    I disagree with the notion that "there's not a lot of demand for black complexity on American television." I think there is ALWAYS a demand for a good story, no matter the color of the actors, and no matter how deeply Americans are socialized to shun a great, complex story featuring a non-white cast (exhibit A: the Wire - though it had low ratings during its initial run, it is now widely considered a cult classic).

    Hollywood deliberately suppresses and marginalizes the stories of black, Asian and Latino storytellers NOT because there isn't an audience for the stories, but because they want to maintain and perpetuate a certain ideology of racial dominance.

    BET is not a good platform for a show like Luther, because that audience simply isn't ready for a show like that. I think it would do better on HBO or AMC, positioned alongside hits like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead.

    "The Luther character is way beyond the skill set of most popular black American actors." Unfortunately I agree, either it's skillset or too young/lacking gravitas. I could see Michael B. Jordan or Anthony Mackie growing into such a role in 10 years, but they don't have the right screen presence now. Don Cheadle is too "elegant" for the role. I just can't see him turning over a chair in rage. The only actors who come to mind--other than Idris Elba's quirkier soul twin Chiwetel Ejiofor--are Jeffrey Wright and Blair Underwood (and possibly Chad Coleman, who played Cutty on the Wire, though it's difficult for me to see him as a leading man rather than a character actor). Where are the 30-something year old Black male acting heavyweights?!

  • Vivian | June 18, 2013 5:47 PM

    Miles, you are quite astute about there not being a lot of demand for black complexity on American TV. I thought for hours and decided that duplication of Idris Elba is impossible. So just give the job to Idris, if he has the time.

  • TAZ | June 17, 2013 8:43 PMReply

    If it were to happen, I would say DB Woodside for Luther and for Alice.....maybe Jennifer Jason Leigh.

    I agree with some others....I am still upset over what Nothing But Cancellations network did with Prime Suspect.

  • Nadia | June 17, 2013 8:04 PMReply

    Pickings are slim, but how about Chadwick Boseman? He's the hot up-and-comer right now isn't he? And he's got the chops.

    On another post somebody said 50 Cent Lol.

  • JEFTCG | June 17, 2013 8:01 PMReply

    I think what this article really stresses, in an indirect way, is that there is NO Black American actor who can properly play Idris' self-effacing, brilliant, flawed Luther. Outside of Denzel Washington (and perhaps Jeffrey Wright), most high-profile black male actors in Hollywood are a bunch of glossy-lipped dandies who spend too much time in the mirror and not enough in the books.

    Whether it's Hollywood that breeds this personality type or not I do not know, but one thing's for sure: right now, Black Male American actors are interchangeable and expendable, stuck in a rut of vanity that will always be surpassed by their overseas counterparts.

  • SF | June 17, 2013 5:14 PMReply

    Sorry. Just read the part where Idris won't do another TV season... So, if I had to pick someone, Omari Hardwick? Could Shemar Moore carry the part? He has a large following from Criminal Minds.

    That's a tough one. Idris is Luther.

  • Mekisha Hale | June 17, 2013 5:11 PMReply

    First of all I have heard of "Luther" from the BBC series. Starring Idris Elba which he does a fantastic job portraying the character in the show "Luther". Then learning from reading this article that British Actor Idris Elba was doing the last season of "Luther". And the thoughts are going towards to motion pictures.
    The question is that since actor Idris Elba will be doing the last season of "Luther",it was mentioned that now the show could now be more of an motion picture. While the question is being raised about the possible notion that an American version of the show could be possible for American audiences. And what American actor could portray the character in "Luther" for U.S. Suggestions were of how the show would begin to what network would this interesting story line of "Luther" could take place. Meaning what cable network would show it, But then another notion came to mind. Since there is a possibility of a feature film that will star Idis Elba,to be done by the year 2014. Then if the film of "Luther" is released,why do the show at the same time in America version of the show while the movie starring Idis Elba being released ,if that happens. That will confuse the public who isn't familiar to the franchise. My opinion only I think maybe it would be better to not going along with the idea to make a American Version. If a movie is being released at the same time. It would confuse the public even more. When remaking a show from over seas. American television doesn't do a good job sometimes with the translation of the show from over seas to American audiences. And other times the idea does work,in history of television if you look back many successful shows ideas did come from actual shows that were successful in Europe then where made in the American version over here. But this idea of this show which is the based totally on the character "Luther" would be a great idea if only they would do one thing at a time then just doing an American version of "Luther".

  • Mario | June 20, 2013 2:19 PM

    Your assertion of confusion of the American audience is very false. Most Americans don't know how many of the popular TV shows were remakes of foreign show. Good example are Homeland and In Treatment were both remakes of Israeli TV shows and most fans of those don't know nor care. Confusion in the market place would not be that big of an issue.

  • SF | June 17, 2013 5:11 PMReply

    How about keeping Idris with an American cast in an American location? Frankly, I can't imagine anyone else playing Luther.

  • fiona | June 17, 2013 4:50 PMReply

    Just noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

  • Mandla | June 18, 2013 9:22 PM

    Fiona, my dear, let me assist you. Noooooooooo, noooooooo, noooooo!

  • Dankwa Brooks | June 17, 2013 4:39 PMReply

    This might seem like ironic casting, but WOOD HARRIS would KILL that role. High hopes would be JEFFREY WRIGHT. Doubt that would ever happen. The only other person I see good for it is BLAIR UNDERWOOD.

  • Walter Harris Gavin | June 17, 2013 4:30 PMReply

    The idea that black folks want to play characters "that happen to be 'black'," and not people of African descent which will always add layers and nuance to a character seems really strange. If a character is missing and arm, has a limp, is extremely good looking, or vice versa, will impact how both the audience and the other characters in the story may or may not react. And that character for good or for ill will have a history, a past, experiences that because he or she is "black" impacts their worldview and how they are viewed by others. To be otherwise rings false. Othello is a "moor" for a reason. If anyone could play him, the very essence of the play changes. When roles, characters are "specific" that is always additive to our understanding of what makes that character tick, helping us all see the complexity that is the human be-ing.

  • korra | June 17, 2013 4:27 PMReply

    Nah, not possible. And who's gonna play Alice Morgan? Only Ruth is capable of this, no one else. Luther without Ruth as Alice = Sherlock without Watson.

  • dee | June 17, 2013 4:06 PMReply

    I can think of no one else to play the role, except Idris. When I read the latest book from Neil Cross...I just could see his face in the words. It will not be the same without him.

  • @JayTeeDee | June 17, 2013 4:06 PMReply

    Ok, sorry for the snark. It would be cool to see Bokeem Woodbine get more work. I do have a followup question though. If Luther is a show about a troubled detective that just happens to be Black but his Blackness isn't brought up as a device for the show what if they remade here with a white lead? Do you think that would work?

  • ALM | June 17, 2013 4:00 PMReply

    This is messed up because the first actor that came to mind is not American- Chiwitel. Lord, there must be someone. Maybe Chadwick Boseman and Chad Coleman have that dark, brooding edginess in their acting repertoires, and they just haven't had the opportunity to really show that dark side of a character fully?

  • ALM | June 21, 2013 3:10 PM

    Muse: LOL!!! Sexy men with swagger who can act, too? I understand. I'm not mad. LOL

  • Muse | June 21, 2013 1:01 PM

    Ha, Chiwetel Ejiofor was the first person who came to my mind as well! If Elba and Ejiofor were to ever star in a film together, my head would explode.

  • Ava | June 17, 2013 3:56 PMReply

    Sorry Tambay,

    But I cannot even entertain the notion at this point. And yes, I have the Prime Suspect re-make still fresh in my mind as I type this. I cannot even muster what risks getting my hopes up at this point.

  • Troy | June 17, 2013 3:53 PMReply

    Common, bokeem woodbine, Omari hard wick, Michael Ealy. US government hierarchy makes a precinct detective unlikely to have the type cases he dealt with.

  • Tambay | June 17, 2013 3:37 PMReply

    Ok guys, I'm not asking whether you want it or not, or whether you think it's a good or bad idea. Ultimately, if it happens, it happens, whether you want it or not. It won't be the first time.

    The question again is, if it were to happen, and the rumor turns out to be true (which is certainly possible), what black American actors would you like to see star in it? And once again, Idris Elba is not in consideration because he's already said he won't do another TV season.

  • Dankwa Brooks | June 17, 2013 4:43 PM

    I must echo Tambay's statement. In defending Spike Lee's Oldboy remake I have to tell people "Hollywood wants what Hollywood wants". If they want a remake they're gonna get one whether you like it or not whether you think there needs to be one or not.

  • @JayTeeDee | June 17, 2013 3:15 PMReply

    No, I don't want it.

  • strangerthanfiction4 | June 17, 2013 3:13 PMReply

    The American version of Prime Suspect tanked with a good star. The writing would have to rival the current writing, cable tv, for adult content and an admirable star. Give it to Idris as well

  • Dankwa Brooks | June 17, 2013 4:36 PM

    Prime Suspect (US Remake) was one of the BEST shows on that season!

  • Scott | June 17, 2013 3:10 PMReply


    That is all.

  • n | June 17, 2013 2:44 PMReply

    no please for the love of God i hope this doesn't happen - us brits want this to ourself. sorry but not sorry.

  • Troy | June 17, 2013 3:49 PM

    Should've kept niggas to yourselves then we wouldn't have made America so much more formidable than then once Great Britain ever was.

  • ScriptTease | June 17, 2013 2:39 PMReply

    I've never heard of this series, and it sounds pretty interesting, but just the other day is where I fist learned of it.... not sure if on here or another website, but the rumor one person mentioned is that Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson is being considered for the role. That is what I heard.

  • ME | June 18, 2013 3:58 AM

    @Troy was that comment necessary, what was its purpose? seriously...

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