Elba was born in London in 1972, but this year marks a new type of birth – that of becoming a citizen of Sierra Leone.
Elba’s father, Winston, was from Sierra Leone, and his mother, Eve, from Ghana. His parents got married in Sierra Leone and later moved to London.
After decades of living between the UK and US, and visiting numerous African countries, Elba went to his father’s homeland for the first time in December 2019.
While in the capital city of Freetown, he spoke to the BBC after receiving his citizenship.
Sierra Leone citizenship a ‘big honour’
In the interview, Elba told the BBC’s Umaru Fofana that the citizenship was a big honour.
“I’m no stranger to Africa: I’ve been in Africa, I’ve made films in Africa, I’ve championed Africa,” he said. “But Sierra Leone, it’s a very different feeling because it’s one of my parent’s home.”
Thrilled with the recognition from the country, Elba shared the significance of the moment.
“The son of the soil is coming back to fertilise the soil.”
Strong ties with African continent
He also confirmed that he sees much potential in the country. “There are a lot of bright kids here who are techno-heads, [they’re] really really smart. I feel like I could contribute to building a workforce that supports other nations in film and that’s part of my journey.”
Elba has maintained connections with the African continent throughout his career. In 2014, he hosted a BBC Radio 2 series, called Journey Dot Africa with Idris Elba, in which he explored various types of African music.
He’s also collaborated with the UK Parliament in efforts to eradicate ebola from West Africa. He also starred in a 2015 Netflix movie about child soldiers, Beasts of No Nation, which was filmed in Ghana.
South Africa like a ‘second home’ to actor
Since starring as Nelson Mandela in the 2012 autobiographical film, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Elba says South Africa is like a second home to him.
As part of his preparation for the role, Elba spent a night locked in a cell alone on Robben Island where Mandela spent many years imprisoned. His performance earned him a Best Actor nomination for the Golden Globes.
Other projects that Elba has filmed in South Africa, include the power-packed 2017 film,The Dark Tower, with Matthew McConaughey as his nemesis.
Speaking to EWN, Elba shared his love for the country. “It’s like a second home to me. And because of Nelson Mandela, I have a little bit of a soft spot for the country and the country has a soft spot for me, to some degree.”