For a while now, I had always seen Idris Elba as the epitome of cool in and out of his life as an actor and projected a certain je ne sais quoi on him that distinguished him as worldly, wise, and woke. His countrymen didn’t feel the same. “Fuck Idris” snarled Deon dismissively, an East London driver with the build and charming swagger of Baloo the Bear whose booming, raspy voice tended to fill every inch of the bar. His Idris vitriol caught me off guard because I expected him to view the star in much the same way I did. In chorus, Connor, an equally urbane East Londoner with creole features and the stout build of a wrestler, cursed Idris Elba and continued on with an explanation as to why.
At some point, Conner had actually come within dapping distance of Idris. Like most hoods, the people who escape them are held up in high, near-legendary regard. Idris Elba’s relationship to his native community of Hackney is reportedly no different (recall the casting flap when he invited the whole of Hackney to be extras in a film and had to turn people away because everybody came). Being from Hackney, Conner felt as sort of kinship with Idris Elba that went beyond class, beyond celebrity decorum. From Conner’s perspective, they were “Brev’ren”–London slang for close friends or acquaintances much like the word “fam” is used in America. “When I called to ‘em yeah, he looks at me like ‘who is this motherfucker’ and has his guard step to me”, said Conner, gulping down his drink. “I thought he was me brev’ren yeah. We’re from the ghetto. The same hood! Since then, I’ve been like ‘Fuck Idris’”. I laughed and told him I had a similar encounter with Levar Burton before a Star Trek panel back in ‘13 and that I understood his frustration. He didn’t know who Levar Burton was.