Idris Elba’s drug kingpin Stringer Bell was killed off of The Wire last season, but the 32-year-old actor is back on the mean streets. This time, he’s playing a teacher whose family was murdered during the 1994 Rwandan genocide in Sometimes in April. Unlike the recent feature, Hotel Rwanda, the HBO movie (premiering March 19 at 8 p.m.) was shot mostly on location in the wartorn country.
Your character in the new movie is based on a real person. Were you familiar with him?
I didn’t know much beyond that his name was Augustin [Muganza] and he was a [Hutu] soldier married to a Tutsi.
Did you know about the genocide?
I was ignorant about it. I remember the Hutu and Tutsi were at war, but I didn’t know anything in detail, which is scary. I felt like, wow, how did I not know that nearly a million people died just like that?
What was your first impression of Rwanda?
There was a little worry about drinking the water. But after I got there, I felt so at home. I was expecting people to be, ”Why are you coming to shoot this? We don’t want to relive this.” But they weren’t. People wanted this movie to be made accurately.
Now that you’ve moved on professionally, are you cool with Stringer’s fate on The Wire?
Yes, in a sense. The Wire was a great springboard. Without it, I might have been stuck on another series. Stringer was a wonderful character, but I didn’t want to play him forever.