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Idris Elba ‘thankful to be alive’ after coronavirus diagnosis

Idris Elba has declared he feels ‘very lucky to be alive’, after he and his wife Sabrina Dhowre tested positive for novel coronavirus earlier this year.

In the earlier stages of the pandemic this spring, the 47-year-old heartthrob was forced to quarantine in New Mexico after discovering he’d contracted COVID-19, a virus which his American wife Sabrina, 30, later caught.

And in an interview with BAFTA, the Luther star admitted he was counting his blessings, as he said: ‘I do feel like I dodged a bullet – I’m very thankful to be alive.’

At the time he was diagnosed with COVID-19, Idris was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, shooting his latest Netflix project The Harder They Fall. 

In one of many updates he gave fans via his Instagram account, the star, who was asymptomatic, said: ‘It’s weird because I never sit still, Sabrina never sits still either. I think she’s finding it harder, she’s getting cabin fever.

‘We’re both good, mentally just trying to stay optimistic. I hope you guys are too man. Keeping yourselves, you know, sane and not getting worried or too panicked.

‘Take it from me man, I thought I was going to see the worst of it as an asthmatic, but thankfully I came through and you can too.’

Elsewhere in his interview with Matthew Bell for BAFTA, the London-born actor spoke about his long and storied career, touching on many of his notable roles.

The star is set to receive the Special Award, one of BAFTA’s highest accolades, during Friday evening’s ceremony in recognition of his exceptional career. 

And Idris shared how he initially got into acting, saying: ‘I went to a boys school and we did boy things, so drama was a breath of fresh air. I didn’t know if I was good at it but I really enjoyed it, and I was willing to learn and absorb it. I was like a sponge.’

As a budding young actor, he received a £1,500 grant from The Prince’s Trust charity, which helped him study at the National Youth Music Theatre.

‘It was a godsend,’ Idris said of the grant. ‘Getting into the theatre was hard enough, but then you needed money to afford travel and a contribution to your living. I couldn’t have done it without that money.’

While superstardom would later beckon, his first on-screen role was as a murderer in a crime reconstruction scene on BBC One’s Crimewatch in 1994.

‘I was thankful for the job,’ admitted the star. ‘It sounds weird but, at the time, getting a job on Crimewatch was the first rung on the ladder. A lot of actors don’t like to admit they did Crimewatch, but I’m not embarrassed by it.’

After enjoying a string of roles in the UK, including a stint on the relatively short-lived Channel 5 soap Family Affairs in the late ’90s, he moved to the US for more work. 

‘At the time, the pinnacle [in the UK] was to get on Casualty, The Bill or Silent Witness,’ explained the east London native. ‘I’d done all of those and I thought to myself, “Maybe I do want to be bigger.”

‘I remember looking at actors across the pond and seeing how their careers looked, and I thought, “I could have a piece of that.”‘

His move would see him shoot to stardom in the US, as well as globally, with his role as Stringer Bell in widely lauded HBO drama The Wire – a show which required him to adopt an American accent. 

Idris said: ‘I’d been living in America for a long time and I was really into the culture and the culture was in me, so the accent was a lot easier. I remember coming back to do Luther and speaking in my own accent, and that was a bit odd.’ 

With all of his roles, the star admitted that one stands out as his favourite: ‘Getting to play Nelson Mandela – that brings a lump to my throat.

‘It was an honour to portray him. I dedicated that role to my dad. He reminded me of Mandela, with his big white hair and infectious smile.’

The star has also launched a production company, Green Door Pictures, which has provided opportunities for new talent to break into the world of television.

Idris said of the venture: ‘I want to open the door for others to come in… I am positive about the future. The needle has moved significantly.’

The BAFTA Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards are being held in a closed studio after the original date was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The BAFTA Television Craft Awards and Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards were originally scheduled for 26 April and 17 May.

Organisers confirmed at the time that following government advice they had opted to reschedule the ceremonies until later in the year.

The awards show is being held in a BBC studio and in accordance with government guidelines the ceremony will be socially distanced, with nominees accepting their prizes virtually.

Making his debut as host of the all-star ceremony, actor and comedian Richard Ayoade will steer audiences through this years’ nominations, with nominees invited to get involved through video link-ups.

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