Peaky Blinders series three sees Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) pulled into the glamorous and dangerous world of international intrigue in 1920s Britain, putting his entire organisation and family at risk, and forcing him to question everything about his own ambitions and desires.
After this week’s opening episode this Thursday sees Tommy goes to London to meet the wildly eccentric and volatile Duke Leon on the orders of the secretive Economic League . He soon discovers the extreme lengths his new paymasters are willing to go to in their quest for power.
In Birmingham, John’s temper gets the better of him, and a personal dispute with the Italians threatens to explode into a devastating war.
As Tommy struggles to regain control of the situation, he finds out how extensive his new enemy’s hold on the Peaky Blinders is.
We caught up with Tommy himself, Cillian Murphy. . .
Describe how life has changed for Tommy Shelby since the end of series two?
At the end of series two we all thought Tommy was a gonner. We start series three two years later. What I like about television is that when you come back to a new series you can create a gap where the story continues that the audience isn’t privy to. In series three we see him and the family on an upward spiral. Tommy and the family are now very wealthy, with big houses and fancy cars, so materially they are doing very well. Emotionally however, that is another matter.
What sort of man has Tommy Shelby become?
At the beginning of series three Tommy is getting married. I think, however, the gangster part of his life is still the most important. In the first couple of episodes the contrast between his personal life and the business clashes, which makes for a dramatically interesting conflict.
What was your first reaction on reading this series of scripts and seeing what writer Steven Knight had in store for Tommy?
What is great about Steve’s writing is that, having played Tommy for a while, you think you know the character, but you can never ever predict what Steve is going to do with him. It is so exciting to get the scripts as they always astonish me, and he pulls out a few shockers in this series. I also think by the time you get to a third series you need to be quite bold because the audience is so invested in the characters, they feel like friends to them. It is important that you move on with the characters and take leaps, so that the audience feel that they are going on a journey with them. I feel that Steve has really nailed that in this series.
Describe the wide scope of the storyline involving the Russians and how Tommy fits into their plan?
The multi-layered stories in this series are a tribute to the quality of Steven Knight’s writing. If you imagine a gangster series set in the 1920s in Britain, and that the gang has expanded to such a degree that they control Birmingham and are hugely powerful in London, you might think the natural progression would be to look towards America. What Steve did was the complete opposite. He involved Russia in the world of the Peaky Blinders. It was unexpected to read about this explosive time in Russian history and with a lot of the background to our story actually happening in world history. Steve loves this world and is brilliant at uncovering these historical events and weaving them into this storyline. With Tommy’s involvement in this politically charged atmosphere, we see him out of his depth and thoroughly backed into a corner by the end of it all, which could have terrifying consequences for him and the family.
Tommy is dealt some cruel blows in this series. How does he come back from that place, if at all?
This is the most emotionally beaten down I think we have seen him. Those external forces that Tommy is trying to guard his family and business from, know that the way to get to him is through the family. So when they are threatened that is when Tommy spins out of control and becomes very, very dangerous.
What is it like getting back into the role of Tommy Shelby?
Tommy is a very physical character and goes through a lot this year both mentally and physically. There is a real test of endurance in this series and it was an exhausting shoot, but I loved coming to work every day. We had a fantastic director in Tim Mielants and a terrific cast. Compared to a feature film it was a tough schedule - we got through a lot each day.
Peaky Blinders has a strong fan following. Have there been any locations where it was a surprise that you were recognised for your work on the show?
When I get the haircut you can’t hide that Peaky Blinders is coming back and I am recognised more. It always happens in places that you think would not have much interest in Brummie gangsters from the 1920s, like Greece or the Czech Republic, and they love it in France. It’s fantastic that Peaky Blinders is globally recognised, the series is quite specific to this time-period and location but somehow it has universal appeal.
What do you think attracts people to the show and keeps them wanting more?
For me it is great writing, great characters and originality that attract me to a TV show. From the fans that I talk to that’s what they seem to like about Peaky Blinders.
What can the audience expect from series three?
This series has a larger canvas with increased jeopardy and danger. It’s shocking and bloodier with interesting Russian intrigue.