‘Peaky Blinders’ Creators Open Up About Losing Helen McCrory
The creators of Peaky Blinders spoke to NME about the death of Helen McCrory and paying tribute to her and her character Polly Gray.
- READ MORE: The last series of Peaky Blinders: “It’s the end of the beginning”
The first episode of the Birmingham-based noir crime drama’s sixth and final season premiered tonight (Sunday, February 27), marking the series’ first new episode since McCrory sadly passed away from cancer last year.
Talk to NMEshow creator Steven Knight recalled the first time McCrory appeared before him to play the role of the Shelby family matriarch.
“It was the perfect match,” Knight said. “She absolutely took control – not just of this role, but of the family and often of the filming. He was such a strong human being and a great actor that you knew, “That’s exactly who it should be.” It was beyond what we had expected.
“It was her appearance as well. I had this picture of my grandmother and when we were developing the character I was like, ‘She should look a bit like this.’ She dressed like my grandmother with a certain ferocity.
Asked how her loss affected the cast while filming the new season, Knight said, “The mood on set reflected her loss, but everyone thought that knowing Helen as a person, what she always wanted was just to do it. To do it with energy and laughter. The spirit of it helped people get people through.
Of writing her character Polly Gray’s death on the show, Knight said, “It’s a challenge, but it’s the one you take on. Compared to the tragedy, this is nothing. It happened by degrees. It appeared that having Helen as a regular character wasn’t going to happen. [due to her illness], so it was cut and cut until it was no longer possible to have Helen at all. We changed the story, we changed the way it worked and somehow it fit.
“We pay homage to both the character and the actor.”
When talking to NME, Peaky Blinders director Anthony Byrne was still working on the final cut of the final episodes of the new season. Asked about the loss of McCrory, he said: “It’s still very difficult but I’m still finishing the show so I hear Polly’s voice and Helen’s voice. Personally it’s very sad and upsetting.
He continued, “At first we were talking about Helen, her situation and her deteriorating health, and then the logistical changes that we as production had to make happen pretty quickly in terms of rewriting the scripts.
“So you’re talking about a character who is dying on the show. Your mind goes to all these places and then at the end you keep coming back to the fact that this is someone who is still alive but gravely ill It becomes a fog of these problems.
Discussing the character Polly’s funeral scene in the season six premiere episode after she was murdered by the IRA after foiling Tommy’s assassination attempt on Oswald Mosley, Byrne said the filming of the day was very emotional.
“When we shot this, Helen was still alive,” Knight said. NME. “There were scenes that we shot when Helen was still alive because we were hoping that we would be in a position where we could bring Helen back to shoot for a few days with us. It was very positive and we were very engaged there. -inside.
“There was a small group of us who knew what was going on, but the crew didn’t know what was going on – other than that she wasn’t well.
He added, “I really sincerely think we did a really good job of paying homage to Helen and Polly in this opening section.
“I can also tell you that the last shot of the whole season that we shot was Cillian reacting to her body being left outside the house. It was a photo watching him react. I definitely had that as something I wanted to do and have that be the final image that we would shoot.
Read our full interview with Byrne and Knight here, where the pair also tell us what to expect from the new season, how Anna Calvi with Thom Yorke and Radiohead‘s Jonny Greenwood contributed to the show’s music, new characters and back and what comes from the feature film and the spin-off series that will follow.