Lenny Henry explains why he wanted to please Idris Elba with his new project

Virgin Radio

2 May 2024, 10:53

Credit: Virgin Radio / Rex

Sir Lenny Henry has spoken to Chris Evans about working on a new "cautionary, Twilight Zone-type tale", and how it involves Idris Elba.

The comedian and actor joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar to talk about starring in audio drama, Halfway, which is available to listen to now on Audible.

The series examines a world in which AI is used to recreate the personalities of deceased loved ones for profit. Speaking about “uploading your soul into AI, and the ramifications of that, and whether that's a good thing or a bad thing,” Lenny told Chris: “I'm guessing if you're in a dystopian sci-fi drama, it's probably not a good thing.”

He added: “I'm not giving anything away, if I say that there's some dodgy stuff going on. It was very enjoyable to do.”

It's incredibly twisty-turny, and can I give a shout out to the writers Imeldha Eloni and Michael Honnah, who this is their first thing and Idris Elba’s production company have given them this extraordinary leeway with Audible to create a dystopian sci-fi drama that they would not probably have been able to do if it had been a television show, if it had been a streamer show. So I think it's a fantastically incredible launchpad for them. And also, Holly Reddaway directed it. All very young people!" 

Halfway is the first audio drama executive produced by Idris Elba and his wife Sabrina. Lenny told Chris: “Idris doesn't call you, Idris has people who do that stuff!”

He continued: “His people rang me and said, ‘Do you want to be in this thing?’ And I thought Idris might be around and I’d get to chat with him, because we did the Luther thing where we met all his family on Sport Relief, and I played his bruv, but I've not seen him since then, really. But I was really surprised that his people rang and suddenly I was in this play, for Idris, and I’m literally working for Idris Elba. And it was great!”

Halfway also stars Patricia Allison, Arinzé Kene and George Mackay. Sir Lenny described making Halfway, “a very enjoyable experience and we all got to do proper acting.”

He added: “It was like we're doing a theatre play. And we were pushed to do our very, very best and secretly, we all wanted to please Idris in case he was listening somewhere!

“I thought he was in one of those silver airstream things with earphones on, listening to us in secret.”

Speaking more about Idris, Lenny joked: “He's like one of the biggest stars in the world. and sometimes you can find him DJing in Kilburn on a Friday night. He needs to figure out his priorities!

“It’s Idris’ world and we all live in it.”

Speaking more about the plot of Halfway, Lenny said: “I think it's probably messing with something to upload yourself to AI and hope that it's going to work.

“As always, with these things that science claims they can do, there's always something that goes a bit twisty in the end. And this is one of those cautionary, Twilight Zone-type tales.”

Read what Lenny had to say about his ‘moving and sad’ final Red Nose Day as host here.

Halfway is out now on Audible.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.