Idris Elba returns to BBC One for third series of the acclaimed detective drama

Interview with Sienna Guillory

Category: BBC One; Drama

How would you introduce this series of Luther?

This is about Luther’s race to catch the killer whilst being hunted himself. It’s about sixth sense; knowing something even though you can’t prove it, like falling in love and doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, or the right thing for the wrong reasons, depending on how you see it and whose side you’re on. It’s a kind of cocktail of revenge tragedy, morality play and graphic novel, all held together by this extraordinary man, John Luther.

What do you like about Mary?

Mary is brutally honest in a way that kind of bruises herself. Although I worry she can come across as ditzy, it’s quite lovely being someone that sees the good in others, and being in a place of naivety. I personally love her way of saying what she thinks, because I think her lack of artifice is brave; things matter to her.

What relationship does Mary Day have with Luther?

She and Luther crash into each other’s lives. It’s that sense of meeting someone for the first time, yet you know that you know them, which is disorientating because it’s a bit like something feels incredibly important, but you've just forgotten what it was.

Mary sees the good in Luther and sees his capacity for doing good. There’s an unspoken understanding between them, she feels his loss and wants to help him without knowing anything about him.

The challenge was that we have very little time face to face, most of our conversations are on the phone, and Mary builds this entirely genuine and heartfelt, intense relationship with John in just a few days.

What makes Luther so successful?

I think what makes Luther so intriguing is the chemistry of powerful script with great directors, and at the centre, the walking contradiction that is Idris Elba's Luther. It's also rare that with so strong a lead, each supporting character has their own unique point of view and way of talking too, very much like a great film crew. Everybody brings something extraordinary that’s fearless. It’s a very uniquely British thing; to be most comfortable when uncomfortable, and my experience with the BBC on this has been exemplary in terms of where I want to be as an actor.

How does Mary feel about Luther’s relationship with Alice?

Mary and Alice are opposite poles. Alice would be the predator, she’s action, whereas Mary sees the good in people, which makes her naïve, she trusts people, and she’s prey. We both understand Luther in our own way. Luther acts on his gut and his emotions which is very much like Mary, in a way, she almost has emotional Tourette’s whereas Alice likes to play games, which appeals to Luther's hunger. Alice needs Luther to validate her existence; she thrives on torment whereas Mary is at peace with herself.

What is it like to work with Idris Elba?

Working with Idris is amazing - he’s this big man with this big voice and this incredible physicality but has a vulnerability and humility that goes completely against the grain of what you have in front of you, yet it all exists in equal measure. When you’re working with him you don’t know whether he’s going to pick you up or drop you on the floor, you just don’t know what he’s going to do with you, he’s great!

What is your favourite scene?

Idris and I - it’s our final scene and we were trying to wrap up and get the scene done before we went over schedule and it was the middle of the night and it was freezing and there was that lovely sense of flow when you just let the scene play itself. Everything felt completely true. It was one of those moments when you forget how quickly or slowly time flows.

What are the audience going to get from this series?

Goosebumps! I’m really excited about the tiny contradictive details that Neil Cross, Sam Miller and Claire Bennett brought to the story that make everything that bit more unsafe and that bit too far in terms of chill. What I think the audience will love the most, is the return of Alice. It’s the most audacious bit of writing, she’s quite excellent.