Peaky Blinders

Peaky Blinders’ Cillian Murphy On Playing Tommy Shelby For Over 10 Years

Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy reflects on playing the show's leading role of Tommy Shelby for over a decade, and what the experience was like.

Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy reflects on playing the show’s leading role for over ten years. The British drama series first premiered in September of 2013 and ran for six seasons. Peaky Blinders’ sixth and final season aired in February of 2022, with the show’s last episode premiering on April 3. Murphy played the leading role of crime boss Tommy Shelby, the leader of a street gang called the Peaky Blinders, with the series following Shelby’s life and family.

Boasting a star-powered cast that included the late Helen McCrory, Sam Neill, Tom Hardy, and Adrien Brody, Peaky Blinders was an incredibly popular and well-beloved series among fans and critics alike. The series was nominated for several awards throughout its run, and would collect a total of three BAFTAs. Murphy’s powerful portrayal of Shelby would also earn him several best performance awards in the UK. Though Peaky Blinders has since come to the end of its run on television, a feature-length follow-up film has been teased in place of a seventh season.

In an interview with EW, Murphy recalls what it was like to play Shelby for so many years. Though the show would only have a nine-year run, filming began in 2012, meaning that Murphy played Shelby for over a decade. Murphy says that it was a unique experience to grow older with one character and that it was something he had never gotten the chance to do with projects in the past. Read Murphy’s full comment below:

It’s fascinating. We started shooting this in 2012 so when it comes out, that will be a decade, so it’s a big chapter of my life, a big chunk of my life. In between I did lots of other things but I’ve never had that experience of growing older with a character or being able to inhabit it to a point where the character starts thinking for you in the performance. That happens toward, certainly series 4, 5, and 6, it was definitely the character was in control of the vehicle, if you know what I mean. That’s amazing, I’ve never had that experience before.

Despite playing Shelby for so long, Murphy admits that with every new season of filming Peaky Blinders, it would always take him time to fall back into Shelby’s distinctive Birmingham accent. Murphy says that while portraying Shelby is a lot of hard work, it’s been rewarding to sit with one character for such a long time. Few actors are given the chance to play one role for such an extended period of time, and Murphy was given a first-hand look into what it’s like to grow and change as a person alongside your character.

In the past, Murphy has shared that he didn’t expect Peaky Blinders to be as successful as it was and that he struggled truly grasping that the series was coming to an end. With actors so often moving from project to project and role to role, getting to sit with one character for more than a full decade is a unique opportunity. Tommy Shelby is one of the few Peaky Blinders characters to be beloved by fans from start to finish, and it seems that Murphy is just as attached to the role as many avid fans are. With a Peaky Blinders film on the way, however, perhaps audiences have not seen the last of Tommy Shelby, and Murphy may be reprising his long-standing role for years to come.

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