Elba picked up the nod for his role in the British crime drama Luther, which was shown in the US on BBC America.
"My assistant was shrieking so loud I had to clean my ears out before I could understand what she was saying," Elba told USA Today. "I'm flabbergasted and in shock. But at least I'm on set and I can channel that emotion back into my work."
Elba also admitted that he is thrilled to be nominated alongside actors including Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid, Ian McShane and Edgar Ramirez.
"Al Pacino?" he joked. "Never heard of him, who's that? Seriously, this is a very humbling feeling. Every time you do a job you hope that it will be something special. I suppose this show may stand out a bit because Luther - a volatile and brilliant detective - is a breath of fresh air in these PC times. He will risk his life and his sanity to get the bad guy, and to see him explode may provide us all with some relief."
The Golden Globes will be held on January 16 in Los Angeles.