He’s the cover guy for the August issues of Ebony and Upscale magazines, and the message board posts call the photos of British actor Idris Elba “steamy,” “smoldering” and “yum.” However, sitting in a meeting room at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston to promote his latest film “Takers,” Elba is more guy next door than sex symbol. He looks like any guy you might see walking around town. Except he’s not. He’s Stringer Bell – the drug kingpin from “The Wire.” He’s Mumbles from Guy Ritchie’s “RocknRolla.” And he’s the guy who caused the cinematic cat fight between Beyonce and Ali Larter in “Obsessed.”

He’s the cover guy for the August issues of Ebony and Upscale magazines, and the message board posts call the photos of British actor Idris Elba “steamy,” “smoldering” and “yum.”


However, sitting in a meeting room at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston to promote his latest film “Takers,” Elba is more guy next door than sex symbol. He wears a black scally cap, a plain white T-shirt, dark jeans and flip-flops. He looks like any guy you might see walking around town. Except he’s not. He’s Stringer Bell – the drug kingpin from “The Wire.” He’s Mumbles from Guy Ritchie’s “RocknRolla.” And he’s the guy who caused the cinematic cat fight between Beyonce and Ali Larter in “Obsessed.” (They won the MTV movie award for Best Fight in 2009).


Elba tries to deflect this sexy pinup boy talk.


“Oh, you’ve seen them,” he says in a smooth British lilt.


“That ‘sexiest’ stuff. It’s not in reference to me,” Elba says. He’s coy now.


“Me either,” I reply.


We laugh.


“Well, you know.” Pause.


He continues: “I try to ignore it.” Pause.


Elba resumes: “To be honest with you.” Pause.


“OK. I know it sounds like oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, but you know, I’ve always been Idris. I have looked at this same old face every day for 37 years and I haven’t seen anything different. It’s great to be called sexy. It’s nice to have that side. I also want to be known as a good actor, but sexy doesn’t hurt,” Elba said.


In the upcoming heist-gone-wrong film “Takers,” Elba is the ringleader of a team of high-end thieves who gets double-crossed. Paul Walker, Chris Brown, T.I. Harris, Hayden Christensen and Matt Dillon also star in the film that opens Friday.


On screen his character is backstabbed and betrayed. Fortunately for Elba art isn’t imitating life as the roles keep getting bigger and better.


Elba confirmed that he might be the next Alex Cross, the popular forensic psychologist in James Patterson’s best-selling thrillers.


“I have been offered to play Alex Cross and if that happens, I’m really excited about it,” said Elba about the role originally played by Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman in “Kiss the Girls” and “Along Came a Spider.”


Elba also hinted at another possible visit to “The Office,” as the no-nonsense boss Charles Miner who clashes with Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott. “I love that show, and I love that character,” Elba said. “Steve Carell is such a good guy, a real professional.”


Earlier this year Elba was a special forces agent in “The Losers.” He’s got a TV show in London that he produces and stars in called “Luther,” that was sold to BBC America.


“That’s coming here. It’s a great show and great character. I’m in love with the character. It’s such a big acting piece for me,” Elba said.


He’s been generating even bigger buzz ever since the indie flick “Legacy” played at the Tribeca Film Festival. In it Elba plays a soldier haunted by past demons. “It’s raw and I was all the way in.” Elba said of his touted performance. “It was hard to switch off. If my character is drained, I’m drained.”


There were also smaller scene-stealing parts in “American Gangster,” “This Christmas,” and “28 Days Later.” If you still have no idea who Elba is, then you probably will next spring when Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor” comes out.


“Most of the time people don’t know my name. They say, ‘Hey, aren’t you the guy from ... or you’re Charles Miner, right?’ I like that. I prefer to be a little anonymous.”


As his career escalates, though, so does the notoriety. “It’s an occupational hazard,” Elba said.


Today Elba is tired, humble and a bit kooky – in a good way.


“You should hear me on the radio. I’m really a potty mouth funny guy. No one ever expects that. They always say ‘Hey man, you’re not Stringer Bell. He’s a real tough guy. He’s not goofy.’ I’m a real goof on the radio,” Elba said.


Born in London, Elba is an only child. His father is from Sierra Leon, and his mother is from Ghana. He couldn’t afford acting school, but a “beautiful drama teacher encouraged me to go for it. So I just went to auditions and I started getting work.”


In between gigs, he worked a number of odd jobs to pay the bills, including DJing, a skill he learned as a teenager from his uncle. He continues to spin records under the name DJ Big Driis, his alter ego. Elba takes music so seriously that he had lyrics tattooed on his forearm: “This train carries no wrongdoers.” It’s a reggae song by the Jamaican group Culture.


With “Takers,” Elba has the chance to fuse his two pursuits – music and film. He’s making a mixed tape for “Takers” to complement the film with some of his own music and some from co-stars Chris Brown and T.I.


“You know, I got to have myself as an artist and I got to satisfy Idris, too,” he said.


Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@ledger.com.