Spoilers for The Wire follow.
If you were upset when Idris Elba’s Stringer Bell was shot and killed in the third season of HBO’s widely acclaimed Baltimore drug drama The Wire (2002-2008), Elba is on your side. As The Wrap reports, creator David Simon said the actor was very unhappy to hear about his character’s pending demise.
“When he read the script … he was like, ‘Man, I can’t believe I’m leaving the show,’” Simon told the Associated Press on the occasion of the show’s 20th anniversary. “Like, he was not happy. And I remember talking with him over the script and saying, ‘Idris, you’re going to have movie roles. You’re going to be an A-lister. People are going to get a load of this death, they’re going to acquire this story arc in retrospect—this is your calling card, man. You’re going to do fine.’”
According to Elba, who spoke about the character’s fate with The Hollywood Reporter in 2019, he was mystified that producers would want to kill one of the show’s most popular characters and also worried about getting more work as an actor. Worse, he was unhappy with an early draft of Bell’s death scene. As originally written, the character is killed by Omar Little (the late Michael K. Williams), at which point Omar opts to literally urinate on his dead rival.
“I was pissed,” Elba said. “I told [Simon] it was absolute tragedy, that it was sensational, and that it wasn’t going to happen.”
While Simon eliminated that harsh punctuation mark, he still felt it was necessary to off Bell. “Stringer and [Police Major Bunny] Colvin are both from different sides trying to reform the drug war, and it’s unreformable,” Simon said. “It belongs to the gangsters and to the career cops who want to get paid, and so Colvin and Stringer needed to have the same arc, thematically, to make the political point. And at a point at which you let a character or charisma or any of that stuff dictate the story you’re telling, you’re kind of becoming a hack.”
Simon appeared to be correct. Bell's death didn't do anything to ding the reputation of The Wire, which is widely considered one of the best television series of all time. And Elba has found both critical acclaim and massive stardom in films and television, including a popular run as the eponymous British detective in Luther (a role which earned him a Golden Globe)—not to mention the part of Heimdall in the MCU, where he has appeared in several Thor and Avengers movies.
[h/t The Wrap]