Idris has come a long way and has gradually gained recognition in the US thanks to his career-changing role as Baltimore based crack dealer Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell in The Wire.
In an interview in the latest issue of Play Boy, he admitted to selling weed to make ends meet. The British actor also said he is 'very protective' of his pre-teen daughter Isan.
'I’m very protective of my daughter and who she hangs out with,' he said. 'You can drive yourself nuts as a parent, thinking about what boys do and what I got up to as a kid. If my kid got up to that same stuff, I’d be horrified.'
Elba, who is regularly touted as one of the most beautiful people in Hollywood, said he only gets noticed because he is famous.
'When I wasn't on TV or in films, I didn't get any special attention when I went out,' he said. 'Some beautiful people always attract attention. I didn't until I got on television. So I'm on these lists only because I'm on TV.'
He said his fame also tends to impress the ladies.
'I'll sit in a pub and nobody will recognize me, I might see an attractive woman, but she doesn't recognize me, so I'm not getting any love. Then one person goes, "Oh, it's you," and suddenly they all overhear and start asking questions. It’s bulls–t.'
Elba has made a home for himself in the US over the last decade, often dividing his time between Atlanta – where his daughter lives – and London, where people still recognize him from his days as a DJ, something he continues to do.
But the divorced star said being in a relationship as an actor has its challenges.
'I've been in and out of relationships, I've been married, and it's hard to keep a relationship when you're an actor,' he continued. 'A girl I knew said to me, "My dad told me, 'Never date an actor or a DJ.'" It was over, right there on the spot. I was f–ked.'
Elba will next star as Nelson Mandela in the upcoming film Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom.