The past couple of years have not been kind to the crypto industry. Frauds, hacks, and epic billion-dollar collapses have rocked the sector, and celebrities who joined during the boom times have faced public scrutiny—in the case of Kim Kardashian and Paul Pierce, also lawsuits from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Idris Elba, the English actor known for roles in Luther and Beasts of No Nation, is bucking the trend. He recently paired up with Stellar, a blockchain launched in 2014 that promotes cross-border payments but has yet to find a foothold against more prominent competitors like Ethereum. Unlike his ill-fated celebrity peers, Elba is not promoting tokens or investment schemes, but instead the vague ideal of financial inclusion promised by Stellar.
Brand ambassadorship aside, there is only one real question for Idris Elba when it comes to crypto. Perhaps his most well-known role is Stringer Bell, the entrepreneurial gangster from the HBO classic The Wire who aspired to run his criminal operation like a corporation and enrolled in business school classes. Spoiler alert, but Bell met an unfortunate end at the hands of his one-time friend and partner in the third season of the show. Assuming The Wire hewed to a real-life timeline, that would mean that Bell’s demise came in 2004, or five years before the creation of Bitcoin and the inception of the crypto industry.
What if Bell had survived, though? For years, Bitcoin seemed like a godsend to the criminal enterprise—a pseudonymous way to send money globally, unrestricted by the banking system (unless you wanted to cash out) and seemingly untraceable to law enforcement. The early years of crypto were defined by dark web marketplaces such as Silk Road, where curious buyers could purchase anything from bespoke drugs to hitmen, using Bitcoin as a payment method.
The past few years have dispelled the notion of Bitcoin’s anonymity, with companies like Chainalysis developing tools to use crypto’s system of public addresses to trace transactions to their source—a resource that law enforcement agencies have employed to incredible success.
Fortune had a chance to catch up with Elba at Stellar’s Meridian conference in Madrid, where he mused about Bell’s potential reaction to Bitcoin.
“Stringer Bell was a character that was in school learning about economics,” Elba told Fortune. “What he would have definitely done is did his research.”
Would Bell have instructed his minions to adopt Bitcoin, just as they developed an elaborate system of burner phones to avoid wire-tapping?
“He would be curious,” Elba said.