Cillian Murphy on why Tommy Shelby is 'pretty scary' this season and an enemy to himself
"Season 5 ticks all the boxes of what Peaky Blinders does best in terms of entertainment and violence and sex and music."
With every passing episode of Peaky Blinders, audiences are discovering new layers and aspects to the character of Tommy Shelby. For a viewer, the leader of the Shelby family is a wonderful enigma that enthrals and captivates because we never really know what Tommy's planning next.
For Cillian Murphy, the feeling is mutual because with Season 5 premiering on 25 August, he's just as excited to see where Steven Knight is taking the gangster drama over the next few years.
Trying to understand Tommy Shelby is like trying to capture smoke in your hands but one thing has always been clear, like many men that served in WWI, the character was never the same after returning from blood-soaked fields of France.
PTSD has always been a core character trait and with Season 5 approaching, Murphy told JOE that Tommy Shelby is still haunted by his traumatic experiences in the war.
“I think that this year feels to me like a little more about the inside of Tommy’s head. Last season was very much about external forces - the guise of the Mafia - and it was pretty conventional in terms of what he was dealing with. Of course, there was his own psyche and mental fragility to deal with, that’s always apparent with Tommy, but in this season, it seems to me that it’s more explicit. It’s more about Tommy wrestling with his own head and that’s fantastic to play, obviously."
Writer/creator Steven Knight echoes this sentiment because he believes that Season 5 is the darkest season yet.
"In terms of the darkness, because we’re in Tommy’s head a lot and always have been throughout the series, it’s sort of told through his point of view and he’s going through a bad time. Simply because he has starting to feel things again and it’s tormenting him.
"Tommy’s an MP for Birmingham and he blurs the line between the respect a godfather would have in his home turf with that of an MP, so he’s doubly-enfranchised. He’s doubly-powerful and yet at the same time, in other series, he has always faced a nemesis and in this one he has some powerful enemies but his biggest enemy is himself. He’s struggling."
With his new responsibilities as an MP for Birmingham, will we see an end to Tommy Shelby's career as the most notorious gangster in Birmingham?
Not a chance!
"He’s different and he’s the same," said Knight.
"He certainly doesn’t step away from the grime and dirty side of being Tommy Shelby. If anything, because he’s having his own problems himself, he’s sort of becoming quite reckless, so he’s prepared to take risks and entertain danger."
The Wall Street Crash and the rise of fascism are two of the main historical events that Season 5 are set to touch upon, however, Murphy stressed that when it comes to what fans absolutely love about Peaky Blinders, Season 5 really delivers. It's not just all about politics.
"We addressed it (politics) a bit last season when Jessie Eden said ‘I know that before the war, you were a communist.’ I think it’s pretty clear what his (Tommy's) values are, especially in terms of his experience with WWI, his approach to things like hierarchy, authority, and the establishment, he’s very anti all of that stuff. I think it’s clear where Tommy’s politics would sit, if you need to clarify them. Obviously, anyone that knows a thing about Oswald Mosley - but that’s the scary thing, people didn’t - they know where his politics lie.
"It’s inevitable that the new episodes will be political but it still ticks all the classic boxes of what Peaky does in terms of entertainment and violence and sex and music. You know, all the cool stuff! But yes, there will be a political element to it too," he said.
In terms of a brief reminder, this interview with the Corkman is a perfect example of why tommy Shelby is "relentless and fearless. To encounter him as an enemy is pretty scary."
Somehow, we see Tommy being incredibly comfortable in his new surroundings at the House of Commons.
— BBC iPlayer (@BBCiPlayer) August 21, 2019