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Idris Elba Opens Up About Selling Pot To Dave Chappelle And Gigs He Worked Before Getting Famous

Idris Elba in The Harder They Fall
(Image credit: Netflix)

It’s no secret that the acting business is a hard one to break into. Hopeful performers take all kinds of odd jobs while going on auditions and trying to find their big break. When you look at someone as accomplished as Idris Elba, it’s hard to imagine the 2018 Sexiest Man Alive, who fans have clamored for years to see as James Bond, ever struggling for work. But sure enough, when the actor first came to the United States, he said he had all kinds of jobs to make ends meet — including selling pot to comedian Dave Chappelle. 

Idris Elba spoke to the Jess Cagle Podcast about his current projects — including Sonic the Hedgehog 2, in which he voices the (sexy?) animated character Knuckles — but when the conversation circled back to the start of Elba’s career, he spoke about how he had trouble finding acting work in the U.S. for about four years after leaving London, and he picked up any number of jobs, including, he said, some he wasn’t proud of. When asked to specify what those things might have included, the actor divulged the host:

I used to sell weed… It wasn’t [legal] back then. I did that for a little to help pay the way. I DJ’d quite a bit. I was a doorman at Caroline’s Comedy Club, which is fascinating when I meet the comedians that you kind of remember the tall, English guy with the funny accent and the little hair. David Chappelle remembers me, because he used to buy weed from me. … But yeah, I did all kinds of things, to be honest.

Well isn’t Idris Elba just a regular Samson? Not everybody can claim to have sold pot to the Half-Baked star himself. Elba has been nominated for four Golden Globes and five Primetime Emmys, and Dave Chappelle knows him as his weed guy. That’s pretty special. It’s like the old saying goes — always be nice to your doorman and your dealer, because they might turn out to be Idris Elba (and if that’s not an old saying, it should be.)

The Luther star said in London he attended a performing arts school, where he studied everything from art to ballet to theater and other types of dance. He started working in the theater, which led him to other jobs. However, when he moved to New York City, it all “fell flat on its face very quickly for about four years,” Idris Elba said. Then, along came The Wire on HBO. Stringer Bell remains one of the best characters in television history and one of Elba’s defining roles.

Just as importantly, though, it got the ball rolling, as Idris Elba hasn’t had to resort to being Mr. Nice Guy to pay the bills. His most notable roles include Commandant in Beasts of No Nation, Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Charles Miner in The Office and hopefully, someday perhaps Bond. James Bond.

The actor certainly isn’t hurting for work this year. In addition to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Idris Elba will star opposite Tilda Swinton in the fantasy drama Three Thousand Years of Longing, which is set to debut at Cannes in May, and he recently wrapped filming for Luther, a feature film for Netflix that will continue the story of his iconic British crime series. No release date has been announced for that, but check out our 2022 Movie Release Schedule to see what is coming up soon, so you can start planning your next movie outing.

Heidi Venable
Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.