Idris Elba recalls inspirational meeting with Full Monty star Paul Barber

By Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent
·3-min read

Idris Elba has told how The Full Monty star Paul Barber inspired him to become an actor, as he marked Black History Month.

The Luther actor highlighted the “big moment” Barber joined his school’s drama class, in a video message to a young entrepreneur who had asked Elba what prompted him to become a role model for others.

Elba and fellow actors Naomie Harris and Colin Salmon are among a group of prominent black figures – supported by the Prince’s Trust in their early days or charity ambassadors – who have recorded videos in reply to questions from young people helped by the trust.

Elba, who was awarded a trust grant to attend drama school and is now a charity ambassador, said: “I was in my drama class, I loved drama class. It was a place of expression, I enjoyed being there, I enjoyed the sort of creative freedom.

“And this professional actor came in. His name was Paul Barber. He came in and sat amongst us and, you know, we recognised him from TV and it was a big moment.”

Barber, a mixed-race Liverpudlian, is well-known for his role in long-running BBC comedy series Only Fools And Horses and he also appeared in the movie The Long Good Friday starring Bob Hoskins.

Paul Barber
Full Monty actor Paul Barber (PA)

Elba added: “He sat in our class and talked to us about his profession, who he was.

“I just remember thinking ‘wow man’, he didn’t know it but he really, really inspired me to… become an actor.”

The Prince of Wales suggested young people from across the Commonwealth supported by his Prince’s Trust should be given the opportunity to pose their burning questions to their Black British role models.

James Bond star Naomie Harris was quizzed by a teenager from Barbados about how she got started in her career.

The actress, who is a Trust ambassador, said: “I got started at a really young age. I was nine years old and I started going to the Anna Scher children’s theatre and they had an agency attached to the drama classes and I did my first ever audition.

“I think it was when I was around 11 and then I got my first role. And it was in a children’s show called Simon and the Witch and that was the start of my career.”

Naomie Harris is an ambassador for the Prince's Trust. Matt Crossick/PA Wire
Naomie Harris is an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust (Matt Crossick/PA)

The video messages from the role models, who include Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, have been uploaded to Clarence House’s official social media accounts.

Actor Colin Salmon, another Trust ambassador, was asked by a teenager from Jamaica about the key to his success.

He replied: “There were so many adults in my youth and growing up who had the patience to teach me the patience to understand that I would make mistakes and that I could redeem myself.

“They were my role models. They inspired me to become me. And I as an adult take that responsibility very seriously – that we are here to support you, help you, see you and be inspired by you. You inspire me.”