Elba, 36, is to play the lead in "Luther," a six-part series penned by Neil Cross, the head writer on the last two seasons of the British TV series "Spooks," which aired on BBC America as "MI-5." "Luther" is scheduled to premiere next year.
Elba's character, John Luther, is described as "a near-genius murder detective whose brilliant mind can't always save him from the dangerous violence of his passions."
"He's a challenging and exciting character because he's so complex," Elba said in a statement. "While he's capable of great kindness and loyalty, sometimes he steps over the edge of madness -- simmering with anger and rage."
The actor said he previously sought work in the United States because there were few good roles for black actors on British television.
"Unlike here, in the U.S. there are lead roles for black actors," he told the Guardian newspaper last May.
"That's why I went to America -- to get the lead roles that I wouldn't here."