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The Lead is profiling Golden Globe nominees this week, in the run-up to Sunday's awards show.
(CNN) - The London premier of "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" took place on the same night the anti-apartheid hero died. Some in the audience had heard the news, others had not - so at the end of the film, star Idris Elba and a producer stepped up on stage, and read South African President Jacob Zuma's statement.
"It was just a roomful of mixed emotions," Elba told CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper." Elba said he was hit very badly" by Mandela's death, and attended the memorial in South Africa.
While the British actor is nominated for two best actor Golden Globes - one for "Mandela," and another for the BBC TV series "Luther" - he isn't exactly preoccupied with preparing speeches for Sunday's awards.
"I'm in the 'wing it' category," said Elba, with a laugh.
Preparing for the role of Mandela, Elba spent a night in Robben Island, the South African prison where Mandela spent 18 years of his life imprisoned. The actor said he did it to try and understand the feeling of having one's freedom taken away, and to get a feel for the logistics and characteristics of the prison.
"It was definitely very tough," said Elba. "It's a cold, damp, haunted place."
In the U.S., Elba is probably best-known for playing "Stringer Bell" in HBO's "The Wire" - a bad guy, though one with some complexity.
Asked which is more fun to play - the hero of the anti-hero, Elba went with the latter.
"It's really more interesting to layer someone who's an anti-hero with personality traits that are likable," said Elba. "That's what I enjoy doing the most."
There is a movement online and abroad to have Elba play the next James Bond.
"It would be such an honor," said Elba. "What do we have to do here? We have to wear a beautiful suits, drive nice cars, chase bad guys, and date beautiful women? I don't know, sounds good to me."