The latest series of Peaky Blinders will air this weekend – but for the first time in the show’s history, it will be without Helen McCrory in the role of the family matriarch Polly Gray.
The stars of the show have said that filming episodes without the actor, who died of cancer in April 2021, has felt ‘off-kilter and wrong’.
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in the hit series, and said that Helen’s death after a private cancer battle was ‘unbelievably sad and difficult’.
Speaking to The Guardian, he said: “I’m always careful when I talk about it. I’m a friend and a colleague, but then you think about Damian [Lewis, McCrory’s husband] and their kids.
“I don’t own that grief, you know?
“But she was a remarkable human being and a remarkable actor. It was very hard to make it without her.”
McCrory also starred as Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter franchise.
Sophie Rundle, who plays Ada Shelby in Peaky Blinders, said that Helen’s death was ‘a devastating thing for all of us’.
The cast have filmed a tribute to both Polly and Helen in the new series.
Sophie continued: “So in the tribute, that’s all real, that emotion. It really was a moment to think about her and what she had been.
“And this show wouldn’t have been what it is without her, I really believe that. I really believe that she was fundamental to making Peaky what it is and elevating it to be more than just the script, so it was a huge loss and it was just incredibly sad.”
The show’s creator Steven Knight said that he had originally written Polly into the final season, but changed the script when ‘it became apparent that there was less and less she would be able to do’.
He said to the Radio Times: “The loss of the human being, the loss of Helen is the tragedy. That’s the thing. The loss of the character is infinitesimal compared to that. However, it’s our job to deal with that.
“To begin with, Polly was in the series and then incrementally bit by bit, it became apparent that there was less and less she would be able to do. And so in the end, we’d reached a point where we knew that she couldn’t be in it at all.
“And then you have to first of all deal with the consequences in terms of the story, taking a moment to deal with the loss of the character, but then knowing that that has a reflection in the real world with the loss of the person. So it was trying to balance all of that, and I think we’ve done it right.”
The sixth season of Peaky Blinders will air on BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 9pm on Sunday February 27.
Featured image: BBC
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