In short, the show’s producers couldn’t find an American version of Idris Elba.
In news that will probably be music to the ears of many (especially those who weren’t too thrilled about an American version of the BBC’s "Luther"), Fox TV has put off its previously-announced "Luther" serial remake because they couldn’t settle on a leading man to replace Elba.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the network has thus decided to set the project aside for now, at least until the end of the current pilot season, when it will resume its search for the right actor to cast in the role; assuming they actually do eventually revisit the idea.
The THR report also notes that Fox did briefly consider Marlon Wayans for the part – yes, that Marlon Wayans, who most will be more familiar with for his comedic performances, and not his dramatic turns (although a lot of you were thoroughly impressed with his Richard Pryor audition footage).
You might recall that the pilot order was said to be CONTINGENT on whether the show’s producers were able to put together a solid cast to match the British original – a feat that’s apparently proving to be quite the challenge for the network. I asked you all in previous posts, what actor you’d like to see in the part, and Mahershala Ali and Jeffrey Wright were popular, as I recall. Others mentioned the usual suspects like Morris Chestnut, Richard T. Jones, Derek Luke, Laz Alonso, D.B Woodside, and others.
My preference was for an *unknown*.
The starring role could be a career-making gig for the right actor – especially if it’s a fresh face. Has American television ever seen a specifically black character like John Luther? The genius, emotionally-impulsive detective tormented by humanity’s darker side, complicatedly-drawn and incisively brought to life on screen as by Mr Elba.
I do wonder who Fox looked at for the role; I can only assume that every single black actor between 30 and 50 years old probably auditioned for the part… again, I would assume. Especially those who aren’t exactly very busy and would love to be considered for a role like this, which could lead to a steady paycheck, and, if it’s a good show, further exposure, acclaim and awards (Elba won a Golden Globe for his performance in the original. He’s been nominated 3 times by the Globes, and the same number of times by the Emmys).
I would also love to know what it was about Marlon Wayans that made them consider him for the part, and then decide against it. Obviously there was initial interest, but something changed their minds. Maybe a Marlon Wayans "Luther" audition tape will surface eventually, online.
It’s worth noting that the original British character wasn’t initially written specifically for a black actor, so don’t be surprised if Fox moves in another direction with it – if it decides to do so eventually.
Meanwhile, across the pond, Idris Elba is currently filming a new season of "Luther" for the BBC, which will consist of just 2 episodes, coming to TV this fall. The announcement of a new season was a surprise, given that the actor had already said that he wouldn’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, producing and starring in a "Luther" feature film. And secondly, he wants to do other things. So, it made sense that he wouldn’t also star in the American version. Although, with today’s news, who knows? If Fox makes him an offer he can’t refuse, the American version of "Luther" just might star Idris Elba as well.
By the way, "Luther" is streaming on Netflix right now, every season. So if you still haven’t seen any of it, and have a Netflix streaming account, check it out!