As good as Idris Elba is like John Luther, every series Luther he lived or died by the strength of the villain he fought.
In his film debut, Luther gets to face the most terrifying killer he’s ever met – and that’s saying something – in the form of millionaire David Robey, played by Andy Serkis, who lands another franchise under his belt after Lord of the Rings, star Wars, Orderly and more.
The chameleon actor is a standout Luther: The Fallen Sun, creating a truly disturbing villain who revels in gruesome images of corpses and a very public display of just how much control he has over his victims. He is the type of serial killer you only see in Luther movie, and he is unforgettable.
Before Luther: The Fallen SunNetflix premieres on March 10, Digital spy sat down with Andy Serkis to talk about how he came up with Robey’s signature look, the real-life themes in the film, and how to counter Idris Elba’s “mighty force”.
You said earlier that after first reading the script you wanted to take a shower, so was David Robey afraid of taking the role and having to live?
Andrew Serkis: As I was coming back from that moment where I was like, “No, there’s absolutely no way I’m going to do that,” I was like, “No, actually, it’s the theme that surrounds the characters that’s really very important,” and something I really thought that it’s worth investigating.
Aside from the character itself, the whole notion of how we’ve dumped responsibility onto the internet, we’ve literally given ourselves over to the mechanism that allows for deep fakes, AI, hacking and giving up our identity, and so on.
I just thought there was something really interesting about a character who could master all this technology and actually do what we know is going on, which is spying – and probably to a greater depth than we could possibly imagine.
At the same time, it comes from a place of isolation. I mean, he’s a true incel who is unable to truly connect with humanity in a normal way. The lack of the ability to truly feel is something I believe David Robey represents, so as a debate, that’s what pulled me away.
You have the ability to blend into a role to the point that we really forgot we were watching you as David Robey. Part of it for him is this signature look, with the blonde wig…
It was actually my hair, not a wig [laughs]
Now we feel bad. Sorry.
David Robey as a character is somewhat of a construct. It has no style of its own, no personality of its own. He just observes it in other people. So there’s a mismatch in who he is, even though he has a lot of money and can afford anything he wants to make him look very stylish, it doesn’t quite work out.
So that’s what I was aiming for, that it was all the bits and pieces of other people’s lives that were observed, bits and pieces of other people’s lives that were put together, so it seems a bit out of place. This includes his hair, which was all mine, dyed.
Funny enough, Cynthia Erivo came up to me on the third day and said, “Oh my god, the makeup department gave you an amazing wig.” The hair caused a bit of a stir, but I wanted it to be deliberately curled and a little artificial.
There is an element of theatrics to it, and certainly the way it operates and creates an amphitheater in Piccadilly Circus and then Red Bunker. I think he’s reached a point in his life where he wants to be a showman.
The other part of him is that he really wants to overthrow the hypocrites he sees in John Luther, who would consider themselves morally superior to people like him.
That theatricality certainly comes with David Robey’s gruesome first show of Victims. Was it all done practically on set?
It’s pretty scary. It was really scary. Jamie [Payne]our director and Neil [Cross] for imagining it in the first place, for writing it.
His mind, we don’t even want to get into it. Probably a lovely person, but…
He’s the coolest guy. Absolutely really the nicest guy. I think of myself as a relatively sane, normal human being, approachable, and so on. And Neil is exactly that. She lives in New Zealand on the Kapiti Coast and leads a beautiful life.
To be able to climb into the minds of all the psychopaths he’s created on the show, and then this… I’ve played some dark characters, but this is definitely the darkest end of the pool.
On the surface, David Robey doesn’t seem like the kind of person who could stand a chance against Luther, but their confrontations are really electrifying and full of tension. What was it like working alongside Idris Elba who totally Is Luther?
They were really interesting and exciting scenes to play, especially the Red Bunker scene. It is a powerful force. I know Idris, but being on set with him and witnessing his John Luther, there’s a very, very fine line between him and Luther.
He’s so present in this character because he’s been playing him for the last 10 years, it’s so much a part of him. It was exciting to play alongside him and I think he is fearless in his choices.
He’s like that right now, and that’s what’s great about Luther, he’s so unpredictable. Because he acts on instinct and his instincts lead him everywhere, and that’s what Idris does so beautifully, you just don’t know what he’s going to do in a moment that’s great to act with someone like that.
Without going into spoilers, it all adds up to a dark finale set in David Robey’s version of The Red Room, an internet myth. Did you know much about them before reading the script?
You can feel the darkness of the internet and the darkness, you hear apocryphal stories or stories that may be true. It makes sense that places like this exist. I’m sure they exist. They cannot not exist. It’s in our imagination, so if you can imagine it, it’s there.
It’s a bit of a scary idea, but considering human trafficking, the way young teens react to peer pressure, internet pressure, social media, and all that sort of thing, it seems real.
At the same time, there is this level of theatricality [to the movie] This makes it a very zeitgeist blockbuster.
Luther this is the newest franchise you’ve joined, so do you feel any different about joining a world where fans have expectations, or do you just have to approach it like any other role?
Even on the other side of the camera, such as Venomyou act as custodians of a role or project for a while.
I liken it to creating a play by a classic playwright like Shakespeare, where it’s about creating your own version of King Lear or Othello or whatever it is. You know that next year someone will do another production and it will have a completely different interpretation.
I think it’s about being a franchise keeper for a while and then investing everything you’ve got while you have that ability and platform to add a bit of creativity to the story.
Luther: The Fallen Sun is available now in selected UK cinemas and will be released on Netflix on March 10.