'Peaky Blinders': Cillian Murphy Talks Season 5, Getting in the Mind of "Melancholic" Gangster

Peaky Blinders
Courtesy of Netflix

Cillian Murphy in 'Peaky Blinders'

The latest round of Steven Knight's much-loved Brit gangster period series has landed on Netflix.

Thomas Shelby is back.

The Peaky Blinders, led by Cillian Murphy’s indomitable cap-sporting gang leader, are returning to Netflx.

Now onto season five, the latest round of Steven Knight’s acclaimed Brit series sees the gangster family reunited in 1929 as they deal with the fallout of the Wall Street crash. Tommy, meanwhile, is dabbling in politics as a Labour MP for Birmingham South, a move that sees him faced with a new enemy in Oswald Mosley (played by Sam Claflin), far-right founder of the British Union of Fascists Party.

As all six episodes of season five land on Netflix, Murphy talks to The Hollywood Reporter about having a new seat at the Peaky Blinders table as exec producer, how Tommy is (thankfully) unlike him in every single way and why Ken Loach is one of his favorite people on the planet.

Did you anticipate Tommy Shelby getting this far when you first signed on for Peaky Blinders?

No, no, none of us did. It’s been really heartening. It’s really been a gift for me as an actor, because I’ve never had the opportunity to explore a character for this length of time, it’s been a real treat.

Did creator Steven Knight have any master plan for Tommy’s journey at the start that he unveiled to you?

I think he’s said this before, but he very much wanted to explore Britain between the wars. Whether or not he maintains that, we’ll see, but that’s I think where he wants it to go to.

You’re now exec producing the show. How involved are you?

It’s a combination of things, really. You bring your own ideas to the character and then the character sort of brings his own ideas to you, and through working with the different directors over the years.

And with recently having a seat at the table, in the post production of the show really, which is what the exec role really manifests, I feel incredibly close to the thing. It’s part of me now. Even though I couldn’t be more unlike the character in every single way. Who wants to be melancholic and covered in blood forever?

Peaky Blinders has obviously inspired a certain look over the past few years. Have you noticed a number of Tommy-a-likes walking around?

The fashion thing, that was the first sign that it had connected culturally or in a zeitgeist-y way. When people started wearing the suits and having the haircut and wearing the caps, none of us could have predicted that. It’s very flattering for the show. We were all a little surprised.

Does it take a while to get into the mind of Tommy, given that you are so different?

It probably takes less time each series because I’m more familiar with it. But to do it right, there is a certain amount if immersion, and you do disappear. The whole method thing has became overused and reduced, but it’s just there is an exchange. If you’re going to be that person for an extended period of time, it’s obviously going to take some of this person. 

Since creating Peaky Blinders, Knight has become one of most prolific and acclaimed scriptwriters in town, and is now directing. Given that he seems to have about 20 things on at once, does his bring his other work to the set?

He said to me once that writing Peaky comes out of him like spring water. Because he’s from Birmingham and these stories were passed down to him as a child. So he said it doesn’t feel like a job. And he’s written 30 hours of television, that’s a phenomenal amount of scripts. It seems to be very much part of a passion thing for him. But he is incredible prolific and busy, but keeps knocking out scripts that I think the quality of is just unbelievable. 

One of your most celebrated early roles was on Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley, still his most successful film. Is it nice to see Loach still making powerful films well into his 80s? 

We are so lucky to have Ken Loach. We are so lucky that those films get made and get seen. He’s one of my favorite people in the whole world. Not just as a filmmaker, but as a human being. There’s no superlative to describe Ken Loach.