Alongside his critically acclaimed roles in Beasts of No Nation, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and Luther, Idris Elba has spent the last few summers dropping charisma bombs in summer-blockbuster fare like Thor, Prometheus, and Pacific Rim. Now, in a busy year that includes voice roles in Finding Dory and The Jungle Book, Elba will take on the Starship Enterprise as the Big Bad in Star Trek Beyond. We talked to Elba about his character and the joys of claustrophobic prosthetics.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your character has been shrouded in mystery. Please tell me everything about him.
I play Krall. This is a man with a definite purpose. I say a man, but he’s not a man. Or is he?
Everyone wants to know: Is he a Gorn?
Is he a new species in the Star Trek universe?
Yes. What’s interesting about him is that he has a real beef with what the Enterprise stands for. Krall’s a character who’s deeply steeped in hatred — in my opinion, a well-earned hatred — for the Federation. It felt quite political. There’s a relatability to what’s happening in our world. Not everybody’s happy with what everybody calls the good guys.
There’s that line in the trailer, “This is where the Frontier pushes back.” It feels like a refutation of the whole foundation for the Federation.
There’s some history that we explore, to understand why he feels the frontier needs to push back. There’s definitely an opposing argument to the good that the Federation think they do. There are purists that believe in independence, and believe that we’re all made differently for a reason, and will fight tooth and nail to defend that. There’s massive relatability to modern world politics in that sense.
Some Star Trek bad guys are physical threats, and then there are villains like Khan who give all kinds of great megalomaniacal speeches. Does Krall fall into one of those traditions?
Krall is predatory. He’s not one for big speeches. He is one for going to get what he wants. If that means having to do it himself, outside of his army, he is not afraid to do that.
What it like working under all that makeup?
Typically, my day would start at 4:15 in the morning. I’d be in the chair until around 7:30, shoot about 8:30. Shot ’til around 9 at night, maybe later. Get home, unwind, get to sleep, and then wake up in the morning and do the whole thing again. It was definitely an extensive process. I learned so much about working with prosthetics, and how that can influence the performance. I’m claustrophobic by the way; I don’t like rubber masks on my face.
Did you have a favorite Star Trek character growing up?
Honestly, my favorite character from the TV show was Clark Kent. Clark Kent? [laughs] Sorry, different show! Captain Kirk was my favorite. Kirk was just smooth, man! There was nothing fazing him. It was part of the DNA of the show that, in times of ridiculous peril, Mr. Kirk was the coolest actor on the set.
What is Krall’s relationship like with Kirk in Beyond?
Working with Chris [Pine] was a good old laugh. He’s a funny boy, and a wicked professional. But in terms of Krall and Kirk… can we say, Jaws and Dory?
You’re attached to a few different franchises now, between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the upcoming Dark Tower adaptation. Is there a possibility that you will return for another round of Star Trek?
I can’t imagine at this point what else could happen for this character. I think, after this film, you don’t want me to return.
Star Trek Beyond opens July 22.
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