Peaky Blinders (TV series)
|Created by||Steven Knight|
|Opening theme||"Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||5|
|No. of episodes||30 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||55–65 minutes|
|Picture format||1080i HDTV|
|Original release||12 September 2013 –|
Peaky Blinders is a British period crime drama television series created by Steven Knight. Set in Birmingham, England, the series follows the exploits of the Shelby crime family in the direct aftermath of the First World War. The fictional family is loosely based on a real urban youth gang of the same name, who were active in the city from the 1890s to the early 20th century.
Peaky Blinders features an ensemble cast, led by Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, Joe Cole and Paul Anderson starring as Tommy Shelby, Elizabeth "Polly" Gray, John Shelby and Arthur Shelby respectively, the gang's senior members. Sam Neill, Tom Hardy, Paddy Considine, Adrien Brody, Aidan Gillen, Charlotte Riley, Sam Claflin and Anya Taylor-Joy also have recurring roles at various junctures of the series. The show premiered on 12 September 2013, telecast on BBC Two until the fourth series, and then shifted to BBC One for the fifth series.
In 2018, after the show's Drama Series win at the BAFTA TV Awards, Knight confirmed his "ambition of making it a story of a family between two wars, and by ending it with the first air raid siren in Birmingham", which was 25 June 1940. The fifth series premiered on BBC One on 25 August 2019 and finished on 22 September 2019. Netflix, under the deal with Weinstein Company and Endemol, had acquired the rights to release Peaky Blinders in the United States and around the world. In January 2021, it was announced that the sixth series would be the final television series of Peaky Blinders.
Peaky Blinders is an epic following a gangster family of Irish Traveller origin set in Birmingham, England, in 1919, several months after the end of the First World War in November 1918. The story centres on the Peaky Blinders gang and their ambitious and highly cunning boss Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). The gang comes to the attention of Major Chester Campbell (Sam Neill), a Detective Chief Inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) sent over by Winston Churchill from Belfast, where he had been sent to clean up the city of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Communists, gangs and common criminals. Winston Churchill (played by Andy Nyman in Series 1 and Richard McCabe in Series 2) charged him with suppressing disorder and uprising in Birmingham and recovering a stolen cache of arms meant to be shipped to Libya. The first series concludes on 3 December 1919 – "Black Star Day", the event where the Peaky Blinders plan to take over Billy Kimber's betting pitches at the Worcester Races.
The second series sees the Shelby family expand their criminal organisation in the "South and North while maintaining a stronghold in their Birmingham heartland." It begins in 1921 and ends with a climax at Epsom racecourse on 31 May 1922 – Derby Day.
The third series starts and ends in 1924 as it follows Tommy and his family entering an even more dangerous world as they once again expand, this time internationally. The third series also features Father John Hughes (Paddy Considine), who is involved in an anti-communist organisation; Ruben Oliver (Alexander Siddig), a painter whom Polly enlists to paint her portrait; Russian Duchess Tatiana Petrovna (Gaite Jansen); and Linda Shelby (Kate Phillips), new wife of Arthur.
Cast and characters
- Cillian Murphy as Thomas "Tommy" Shelby, the leader of the Peaky Blinders.
- Sam Neill as Chief Inspector/Major Chester Campbell (series 1–2), an Ulster Protestant policeman drafted from Belfast.
- Helen McCrory as Elizabeth "Polly" Gray, née Shelby, the aunt of Tommy and his siblings, and treasurer of the Peaky Blinders.
- Paul Anderson as Arthur Shelby, Jr., the oldest Shelby sibling.
- Annabelle Wallis as Grace Shelby (main series 1–3, recurring series 5), née Burgess, a former undercover agent and Irish Protestant. First wife of Tommy Shelby and the mother of his son Charles.
- Iddo Goldberg as Freddie Thorne (series 1), a known communist who fought in the Great War; Ada's husband.
- Sophie Rundle as Ada Thorne, née Shelby, the Shelby brothers' only sister.
- Joe Cole as John "Johnny" Shelby (series 1–4), the third-youngest Shelby brother.
- Ned Dennehy as Charlie Strong, owner of a boatyard and an uncle figure to Tommy.
- Charlie Creed-Miles as Billy Kimber (series 1), a local kingpin who runs the local races.
- Benjamin Zephaniah as Jeremiah 'Jimmy' Jesus, a preacher and friend of the gang.
- Andy Nyman (series 1), Richard McCabe (series 2), and Neil Maskell (series 5) as Winston Churchill
- Tommy Flanagan as Arthur Shelby, Sr. (series 1), the father of Tommy and his siblings'; Polly's brother.
- Tom Hardy as Alfred "Alfie" Solomons (series 2-present), the leader of a Jewish gang in Camden Town.
- Finn Cole as Michael Gray (series 2–present), Polly's biological son.
- Charlotte Riley as May Carleton (series 2, 4), a wealthy widow who owns racehorses.
- Natasha O'Keeffe as Lizzie Shelby (main series 2–present, recurring series 1), née Stark; An ex-prostitute who worked for Tommy as his secretary. She is his second wife and the mother of his daughter Ruby.
- Packy Lee as Johnny Dogs (main series 2–present, recurring series 1), a friend of Tommy Shelby's.
- Noah Taylor as Darby Sabini (series 2), the leader of an Italian gang in Camden Town.
- Paddy Considine as Father John Hughes (series 3), a priest working with the anti-communist Section D (The Economic League) in the British government.
- Aimee-Ffion Edwards as Esme Shelby (main series 3–4, recurring series 1–2), née Lee, John Shelby's wife.
- Alexander Siddig as Ruben Oliver (series 3), a portrait artist in a romantic relationship with Polly Gray.
- Gaite Jansen as Grand Duchess Tatiana Petrovna (series 3), a Russian princess.
- Jan Bijvoet as Grand Duke Leon Petrovich Romanov (series 3), Grand Duchess Izabella's husband.
- Dina Korzun as Grand Duchess Izabella (series 3), Princess Tatiana Petrovna's aunt.
- Aidan Gillen as Aberama Gold (series 4–5), an ally of the Shelby family and lover of Polly Gray.
- Adrien Brody as Luca Changretta (series 4), a New York mafioso with a vendetta against the Shelby family.
- Kate Phillips as Linda Shelby (main series 4–5, recurring series 3), Arthur Shelby's wife. She is a Christian.
- Charlie Murphy as Jessie Eden (series 4–present), a union convenor and lover of Tommy Shelby's.
- Jack Rowan as Bonnie Gold (series 4–5), Aberama Gold's boxing champion son.
- Ian Peck as Curly (main series 4–present, recurring series 1–3), a horse expert and assistant to Charlie Strong.
- Alfie Evans-Meese (series 1) and Harry Kirton (series 2–5) as Finn Shelby, the youngest of the Shelby siblings and the member of the gang.
- George Gwyther (series 3) and Callum Booth-Ford (series 5) as Karl Thorne, the only child of Ada and Freddie Thorne.
- Jordan Bolger (series 2–4) and Daryl McCormack (series 5) as Isaiah Jesus, the son of Jeremiah Jesus and a member of the gang.
- Sam Claflin as Sir Oswald Mosley (series 5), a fascist politician.
- Anya Taylor-Joy as Gina Gray (series 5), Michael Gray's American wife.
- Kingsley Ben-Adir as Colonel Ben Younger (main series 5, recurring series 4), a young colonel who begins a relationship with Ada Thorne. He is also investigating socialist and fascist political activities.
- Brian Gleeson as Jimmy McCavern (series 5), leader of the Billy Boys, a Scottish Protestant gang.
- Cosmo Jarvis as Barney (series 5), a WWI comrade and old friend of Tommy's who is locked in an insane asylum. He is a sniper.
- Kate Dickie as Mother Superior (series 5), a nun who runs an orphanage.
- Andrew Koji as Brilliant Chang (series 5), a Chinese criminal leader involved in opium smuggling.
- Samuel Edward-Cook (series 1) as Danny "Whizz-Bang" Owen, a former comrade of Tommy Shelby and a loyal member of the gang.
- Tony Pitts (series 1−4) as Sergeant/Inspector Moss, a police officer from Birmingham.
- Kevin Metcalfe as Scudboat (series 1), a henchman of the gang
- Neil Bell (series 1) as Harry Fenton, a former landlord and owner of the Garrison pub.
- Lobo Chan (series 1) as Mr Zhang
- Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (series 1) as Malacki Byrne, a member of the IRA and the cousin of one of the IRA members
- Isabelle Estelle Corbusier (series 1) as Yasmin Lipscomb
- Jeffrey Postlethwaite (series 1−2) as Henry, a Peaky Blinders henchman.
- Matthew Postlethwaite (series 1−2) as Nipper, a Peaky Blinders henchman.
- Adam El Hagar (series 2) as Ollie, the assistant to Alfie Solomons
- Henry Garrett (series 2) as Clive Macmillan, first husband of Grace Burgess. He was a rich banker who lived in Poughkeepsie, New York.
- Sam Hazeldine (series 2) as Georgie Sewell, the right-hand man and consiglieri to Darby Sabini
- Paul Bullion (series 2) as Billy Kitchen, a Black Country man, who briefly worked as a Head Baker for Tommy Shelby and Alfie Solomons
- Rory Keenan (series 2) as Donal Henry, a spy who worked for the Irregulars against the Pro-Treaty Paddies
- Simone Kirby (series 2) as Irene O'Donnell, a Pro-Treaty Paddies member, who works with Donal Henry and Inspector Campbell to blackmail Tommy Shelby into carrying out an assassination.
- Wanda Opalinska (series 2, 4) as Rosemary Johnson, the foster mother of Michael Gray, whom she named Henry
- Daniel Fearn (series 2, 4) as King Maine, a boxing trainer in Birmingham who trains Arthur Shelby and Bonnie Gold
- Josh O'Connor (series 2) as James, a friend and housemate of Ada Thorne
- Dorian Lough (series 2) as Mario, the owner of The Eden Club, ran by Darby Sabini
- Allan Hopwood (series 2) as Abbey Heath
- Stephanie Hyam (series 3) as Charlotte Murray, a wealthy girl, with whom Michael Gray has a short affair
- Kenneth Colley (series 3) as Vicente Changretta, the father to Luca and Angelo Changretta
- Bríd Brennan (series 3–4) as Audrey Changretta, the mother of Luca Changretta, wife of Vicente Changretta and head of the Italian gang in Birmingham, as part of being the enemy of the Peaky Blinders
- Frances Tomelty (series 3) as Bethany Boswell, a wise old woman living in Wales, whom Tommy Shelby seeks out
- Richard Brake (series 3) as Anton Kaledin, a Russian refugee, who attempted to discuss business with Darby Sabini and Tommy Shelby on Tommy and Grace Burgess' wedding day
- Alex Macqueen (series 3) as Patrick Jarvis MP, a Member of Parliament and also a member and representative of The Economic League, working with Father Hughes
- Ralph Ineson (series 3) as Connor Nutley, a Lancaster factory foreman.
- Peter Bankole (series 3) as William Letso, a former diamond miner, a tunneler from the South African Labor Corps and a friend of Tommy Shelby
- Richard Dillane (series 3) as General Curran, an uncle of Grace Burgess
- Dominic Coleman (series 3) as Priest
- Wendy Nottingham (series 3) as Mary, the housekeeper of Tommy Shelby
- Billy Marwood (series 3) and Jenson Clarke (series 4–5) as Charles Shelby, son of Tommy and Grace Shelby.
- Luca Matteo Zizzari (series 4) as Matteo, one of Luca Changretta's henchmen.
- Jake J. Meniani (series 4) as Frederico, one of Luca Changretta's henchmen
- Graeme Hawley (series 4) as Niall Devlin, a working man in the Shelby Company Limited, working for Tommy Shelby
- Pauline Turner (series 4) as Frances, the housekeeper of Tommy Shelby
- Donald Sumpter (series 4) as Arthur Bigge, the King's Private Secretary, who deals with the case of the execution of Polly Gray, Arthur Shelby, John Shelby and Michael Gray
- Jamie Kenna (series 4) as Billy Mills, a former heavyweight boxing champion and a worker for the Shelby Company Limited, who fights against Bonnie Gold at the company
- Joseph Long (series 4) as Chef
- Andreas Muñoz (series 4) as Antonio, the Italian assassin who came into Tommy Shelby's house as a sous-chef and planned to kill Tommy
- Ethan Picard-Edwards (series 4) as Billy Shelby, the first child of Arthur and Linda Shelby
- Dave Simon (series 4−5) as Mulchay
- Emmett J. Scanlan (series 5) as Billy Grade, an ex-footballer turned singer and an ally to the Peaky Blinders.
- Heaven-Leigh Clee (series 5) as Ruby Shelby, the daughter of Tommy Shelby and Lizzie Stark
- Elliot Cowan (series 5) as Michael Levitt, a Birmingham journalist
- Peter Campion (series 5) as Mickey Gibbs, barman of The Garrison pub
- Charlene McKenna (series 5) as Captain Swing, an IRA leader in Belfast
- Tim Woodward (series 5) as Lord Suckerby, a High Court Judge
|Series||Episodes||Originally aired||Average UK viewers|
|First aired||Last aired||Network|
|1||6||12 September 2013||17 October 2013||BBC Two||2.38|
|2||6||2 October 2014||6 November 2014||2.18|
|3||6||5 May 2016||9 June 2016||2.85|
|4||6||15 November 2017||20 December 2017||4.05|
|5||6||25 August 2019||22 September 2019||BBC One||7.20|
- The average rating for the first two series have been calculated using 7-day viewing figures, while the ratings for the latter three series use 28-day viewing figures.
Screen Yorkshire provided funding for the production through the Yorkshire Content Fund, ensuring that the majority of the show was filmed in Yorkshire as part of the deal. The series was filmed in Birmingham, Bradford, Dudley, Leeds, Liverpool, and Port Sunlight. Railway sequences were filmed between Keighley and Damems, using carriages from the Ingrow Museum of Rail Travel (owned by Vintage Carriages Trust), and carriages owned by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Trust. Many of the scenes for the show were shot at the Black Country Living Museum.
Ulster-born, New Zealand-raised Sam Neill enlisted the help of Northern Irish actors James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson to help him recover his lost Northern Irish accent for the role of C.I. Campbell. In the end, he had to tone down the accent since the series is being marketed in the United States.
A second series was commissioned shortly after the broadcast of the first and aired in October and November 2014. On 11 January 2014, auditions were held in Digbeth area of Birmingham (near where parts of the series are set) for white and mixed race teenage male extras, resulting in lengthy queues.
Shortly after the final episode of the second series, the show announced via its Twitter account that it had been renewed for a third series. On 5 October 2015, the official Peaky Blinders Twitter account announced that filming had begun for series 3. Filming wrapped on 22 January 2016, after 78 days of shooting.
During the initial broadcast of series 3, the BBC renewed Peaky Blinders for series 4 and 5, each of which comprises six episodes. Filming for series 4 started in March 2017 and premiered on 15 November 2017 on BBC Two. The fourth series did not include The Weinstein Company or its logo in its credits, even though the company was formerly involved in the US distribution of the series.
The BBC commissioned a fifth series in mid-2016. On 22 August 2018, it was confirmed that series 5 would be broadcast on BBC One. Having already premiered to a select audience at Birmingham Town Hall on 18 July 2019, the series began airing on BBC One on 25 August 2019.
On 5 May 2018, Steven Knight told Birmingham Press Club that "we are definitely doing [series] six and we will probably do seven". Knight has indicated that once the series is complete, a film or spin-off could follow. During 2020, rumors emerged linking comedian Rowan Atkinson to the show for the role of Adolf Hitler in Series 6, but the producers denied the involvement saying that the news is "completely false".
On 18 January 2021, it was announced that series six, which had just begun filming, would be the final television series of Peaky Blinders; though Knight revealed "the story will continue in another form".
Peaky Blinders has received critical acclaim, particularly for its writing, acting, visuals, and stylish cinematography. David Renshaw of The Guardian summarised the series as a "riveting, fast-paced tale of post-first world war Birmingham gangsters", praising Murphy as the "ever-so-cool Tommy Shelby" and the rest of the cast for their "powerful performances." Sarah Compton of The Telegraph gave the series a 4/5 rating, praising the show for its originality and "taking all of our expectations and confounding them." Alex Fletcher from Digital Spy believes that "Peaky Blinders has started as sharp as a dart," while Den of Geek called the series "the most intelligent, stylish and engrossing BBC drama in ages." Cult TV Times critic Hugh David said the show "warrants the billing" by "managing to tick several ratings boxes – period drama, gangster epic, film star leads – yet go against the grain of those in the most interesting of ways."
The show has been particularly celebrated for its stylish cinematography and charismatic performances, as well as for casting an eye over a part of England and English history rarely explored on television. Historians have been divided over whether bringing characters and events from other decades into a 1920s story undermines claims to historical accuracy, or whether working-class life in the period is nevertheless depicted in a truthful and resonant way. Reviews for the second series have remained positive, with Ellen E. Jones of The Independent commenting that "Peaky Blinders can now boast several more big-name actors to supplement the sterling work of Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory and Sam Neill", referring to second series additions Tom Hardy and Noah Taylor.
Several critics have favourably compared the show to the American series Boardwalk Empire, which shares the same themes and historical context. Show writer Steven Knight stated in an early interview: "Do you know – and I'm not just saying this – but I've never watched them. I've never seen The Wire, I've never seen Boardwalk Empire, I've never seen any of them." When asked if he deliberately avoided watching these dramas, he responded: "It's sort of deliberate in that I don't really want to be looking at other people's work because it does affect what you do inevitably." On 2 March 2016, Knight told the Crime Scene Quarterly "I've had unsolicited communication from Michael Mann, the film director, from Dennis Lehane, Snoop Dogg – he's such a fan. And the late David Bowie was a huge fan – more of that to come" (strongly hinting Bowie's involvement on Series 3). It was later confirmed that David Bowie's music would be featured, and Leonard Cohen had also written a new song for series 3.
Awards and nominations
|1||BAFTA Television Craft Awards||Best Director: Fiction||Otto Bathurst||Won|
|Best Original Television Music||Martin Phipps||Nominated|
|Best Photography and Lighting: Fiction||George Steel||Won|
|Best Production Design||Grant Montgomery||Nominated|
|Best Sound: Fiction||Stuart Hilliker, Brian Milliken, Matthew Skelding, Lee Walpole||Nominated|
|Best Special Visual Effects||Bluebolt (VFX), Rushes (Colourist)||Nominated|
|Biarritz International Festival of Audovisual Programming||Best Actor in a TV Series or Serial||Cillian Murphy||Won|
|Best Actress in a TV Series or Serial||Helen McCrory||Won|
|Best Music in a TV Series or Serial||Martin Phipps||Won|
|Crime Thriller Awards UK||Best Supporting Actress||Helen McCrory||Nominated|
|RTS Programme Awards||Best Drama Series||"production team"||Won|
|RTS Craft & Design Awards||Best Costume Design: Drama||Stephanie Collie||Won|
|Best Make-Up Design: Drama||Loz Schiavo||Nominated|
|Best Production Design: Drama||Grant Montgomery||Nominated|
|Judges' Award||"production team"||Won|
|Televisual Bulldog Awards||Best Drama One-Off or Serial||"production team"||2nd Place|
|2||BAFTA Television Awards||Best Drama Series||"production team"||Nominated|
|BAFTA Television Craft Awards||Best Make-Up and Hair||Loz Schiavo||Nominated|
|Best Photography and Lighting: Fiction||Simon Dennis||Nominated|
|Best Production Design||Grant Montgomery||Nominated|
|IFTA Film and Television Awards||Best Leading Actor in a Drama Series||Cillian Murphy||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Lorna Marie Mugan||Won|
|Best Director: Drama Series||Colm McCarthy||Nominated|
|RTS Programme Awards||Best Drama Series||"production team"||Nominated|
|RTS Craft & Design Awards||Best Photography: Drama||Simon Dennis||Nominated|
|Writers' Guild of Great Britain Awards||Best TV Drama – Long Form||Steven Knight||Nominated|
|3||National Television Awards||Best Period Drama Series||"Production team"||Nominated|
|Best Drama Performance||Cillian Murphy||Nominated|
|Irish Film and Television Awards||Best Leading Actor in a Drama Series||Cillian Murphy||Won|
|4||BAFTA Television Awards||Best Drama Series||"production team"||Won|
|BAFTA Television Craft Awards||Best Costume Design||Alison McCosh||Nominated|
|Best Editing: Fiction||Dan Roberts (Episode 5)||Nominated|
|Best Make Up & Hair Design||Loz Schiavo||Nominated|
|Best Sound: Fiction||Forbes Noonan, Ben Norrington, Jim Goddard, Grant Bridgeman||Nominated|
|Best Writer: Drama||Steven Knight||Nominated|
|TV Choice Awards||Best Drama Series||"production team"||Won|
|Best Actor||Cillian Murphy||Won|
|Best Actress||Helen McCrory||Nominated|
|5||Cinema Audio Society Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Television Series – One Hour||Stu Wright, Nigel Heath, Brad Rees, Jimmy Robertson, Oliver Brierley, Ciaran Smith (for "Mr. Jones")||Nominated|
Broadcast and release
On 24 September 2014, it was announced that Netflix had acquired exclusive US distribution rights from the Weinstein Company and Endemol. The entirety of series 1 became available for streaming on 30 September 2014; series 2 launched in November 2014. Series 3 was made available 31 May 2016. Due to licensing restrictions, however, most of the show's original soundtrack is not available on the Netflix-distributed version of the series. In 2018, it was announced Peaky Blinders would be moved from its original broadcast channel, BBC Two, to BBC One.
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), Peaky Blinders has had a detectable cultural impact in the UK. In 2018 the name Arthur surged into the top 10 boys' names for the first time since the 1920s, and Ada jumped into the girls' top 100 for the first time in a century too.
The assumption by the ONS is that the popularity of these names was inspired by the characters Arthur Shelby, Jr and Ada Thorne.
In August 2020, a video game based on the television series was developed by Curve Digital and released for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and for home computers via Steam. Designed as a puzzle adventure game, the title acts as a prequel to the events of the series, set just before the premiere of the first season, and focused on the rise of Tommy Shelby to become the leader of the Shelby Family, as he attempts to thwart an effort to prevent someone wiping out the gang. The game received positive feedback from critics for embracing the television series' setting and characters, and adding a unique twist to puzzle solving.
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