Cillian Murphy reveals why ‘Peaky Blinders’ cast are not a gang off set

Cillian Murphy in 'Peaky Blinders'
Cillian Murphy in 'Peaky Blinders' (Image credit: BBC)

The star of BBC One’s period gangland hit Peaky Blinders, Cillian Murphy, has explained that the tightness of the cast is very much an on-screen illusion – they don’t tend to hang out together away from the cameras.

Peaky Blinders returns to BBC One and Netflix for its final season six very soon, reuniting Cillian (Tommy Shelby) with Paul Anderson (Arthur Shelby), Harry Kirton (Finn Shelby) and Sophie Rundle (Ada Thorne).

Cillian says the intense chemistry of the cast is saved for the scenes.

He told Variety: “Because it is such an intense shoot due to the nature of the material, and because we are working about 16 hours a day for about five months, we don’t tend to hang out socially when we aren’t shooting. I think that’s only because we see so much of each other when we work, but it has been a very collaborative journey and I’ve learned a huge amount.” 

Starting to film season six at the start of the second UK lockdown in January 2021 didn’t exactly boost the bond between cast and crew. “We were getting tested three times a week, and everybody was masked except, of course, the actors,” he said. “We managed to get through the whole shoot without a case, which was quite a great result considering what was happening.”

He continued: “I found it pretty hard to make a connection with the crew because everybody was masked, and you didn’t know who anybody really was in the crew, and I found that difficult because I’ve always been quite tight with the crew whenever I act.”

The Irish actor who plays the gangland anti-hero at the heart of Steven Knight's series thought it had a negative impact on the final series, killing some of the spontaneity he was used to when shooting on ‘Peaky’.

Despite these hurdles, the crew and cast were focused on delivering an epic conclusion, with the events shifting between Britain and America, with the threat of World War Two looming. The tragic death of Helen McCrory (Polly Shelby) in April 2021 also contributed to their intensity.

TV tonight Peaky Binders

Helen McCrory as Aunt Polly (Image credit: BBC)

Cillian said: “I think the whole series is really in tribute to her and to honour her. Her presence and her character’s presence are very much still felt in the series, and it is very much part of Tommy’s journey in the season. It’ll be different without her, you know. It simply won’t be the same.”

Peaky Blinders returns to BBC One and Netflix soon, although a definite date has not been confirmed.

Patrick McLennan

Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix. 

An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.