It’s 1925 and we find the Shelby family as we’ve never seen them before: estranged, seeking respite from the dangerous, criminal lives they once led. But their peace is short-lived – a new threat from the Mafia, in the form of Adrien Brody’s Luca Changretta, means the Peaky Blinders must unite once again if they’re to have any hope of survival.
Will retreat to Small Heath, Birmingham – the slum where they’re known and protected – keep the wolves at bay? Or will Tommy’s dangerous new alliances come back to bite him?
Remind yourself of who the Shelby’s and their associates and enemies are…
Tommy Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy)
Tommy Shelby, BBC Pictures, SL
Head of the Shelby gang, we find Tommy a shell of himself in series four. A year on from the ‘deal’ which saw his family saved from the noose, the mobster is estranged from most of his kin, living alone with his son Charlie after the death of wife Grace (Annabelle Wallis) at the start of series three. But a new threat from Mafia boss Luca Changretty forces the Shelbys to close ranks in a bid to preserve their very existence – and in their time of need, they turn to Tommy.
Who is Cillian Murphy?
A star of the big and small screen, Cillian Murphy has cropped up in a string of films from 28 Days Later to Red Eye to Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley. He is a long-time collaborator of director Christopher Nolan, appearing in his Batman trilogy as the Scarecrow, as well as Inception and last summer’s WWI epic Dunkirk. Murphy is currently filming Anna – a French crime thriller directed by Luc Besson.
Aunt Polly (played by Helen McCrory)
Aunt Polly, BBC Pictures, SL
Aunt Polly was one of Tommy Shelby’s closest confidants and a pillar of support – that is, until her nephew had her arrested by the police and almost sent her to her death at the gallows. The encounter has left Polly frail and reliant on the pills she was fed during her time behind bars as her relationship with her family lies in tatters.
Who is Helen McCrory?
Helen McCrory made a name for herself playing one woman in particular – Cherie Blair – after portraying the Prime Minister’s wife in both The Queen (2006) and The Special Relationship (2010). But her career extends far beyond that, with roles as Francoise in Charlotte Gray, Clair Dowar in Skyfall and Draco Malfoy’s mum Narcissa in the final three Harry Potter films. Earlier this year she led ITV drama Fearless as Emma Banville.
Luca Changretta (played by Adrien Brody)
Luca Changretta, BBC Pictures, SL
Luca lands on British shores fresh from New York, seeking vengeance for his murdered kinsman (who met his maker thanks to the Shelby brothers). With Tommy & co in his sights and revenge on his mind, could this Mafia mobster be the Shelbys’ most dangerous foe yet?
Who is Adrien Brody?
Adrien Brody may not be the first Hollywood actor to join Peaky Blinders but he’s the first Oscar winner to grace the series; The Pianist, released in 2002, made him an international star, and the youngest actor to get his hands on an Academy Award. Since then he’s starred in The Village, King Kong and Predators and has become a frequent collaborator of director Wes Anderson, appearing in The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Arthur Shelby (played by Paul Anderson)
Arthur Shelby, BBC Pictures, SL
Once Tommy’s right hand man, nowadays Arthur enjoys a bucolic existence in the countryside with wife Linda and their child – a million miles from the war-ravaged character we met in series one. But with the threat from the Mafia hanging over the Shelbys, how long can his rural idyll last?
Who is Paul Anderson?
Arthur Shelby may be his biggest role to date, but Paul Anderson has enjoyed a string of parts on TV and in films, including the lead in 2009 Brit flick The Firm. Other movie appearances include ’71, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and The Revenant, while on television he’s shown up in The Great Train Robbery, Top Boy and Lewis.
John Shelby (played by Joe Cole)
John Shelby, BBC Pictures, SL
Like his brother Arthur, John decamped to the countryside after Tommy’s betrayal to live peacefully with wife Esme and their kids. Once a loyal soldier of Tommy’s, will he take up arms again when the Shelbys find themselves in danger?
Who is Joe Cole?
28-year-old Joe has had a string of roles, from Luke in Skins to Tommy in Offender and Reece in Green Room. He also played Trevor in The Hour and will appear in episode Hang the DJ in the upcoming series of Black Mirror. Behind the scenes, Joe has spoken of penning a comedy series with Matt Lucas. His real-life brother Finn plays fellow Peaky member Michael Gray.
Ada Shelby (played by Sophie Rundle)
Ada Shelby, BBC Pictures, SL
Tommy’s sister Ada has had her fair share of grief thanks to her brothers’ business dealings. But she is – in many ways – the glue that holds them together, so when she sweeps back home on a visit from her new life in Boston, she sets about rebuilding their fractured relationships. But what she didn’t bank on was a new threat to her own life.
Who is Sophie Rundle?
Along with Peaky Blinders, Sophie Rundle has appeared in some of the biggest shows on British TV over the last few years, most memorably her role in Happy Valley which saw her young police officer run over and killed in series two. She’s also played main characters in The Bletchley Circle, Not Safe for Work, Brief Encounters and Jamestown and is currently filming new Jed Mercurio series The Bodyguard starring Keeley Hawes and Richard Madden.
Michael Gray (played by Finn Cole)
BBC Pictures, SL
Polly’s biological son was reunited with his mother in series two after he showed up on her doorstep. Since then he’s proven himself an invaluable member of the family business, thanks to his good education, and is a support to Polly in series four as the two recover from their ordeal in prison.
Who is Finn Cole?
Real-life brother to his co-star, Jo Cole, 22-year-old Finn has only had a couple of roles besides Peaky Blinders, appearing in 2015 TV movie An Inspector Calls as well as a main role in American series Animal Kingdom which airs on TNT.
Jessie Eden (played by Charlie Murphy)
Jessie Eden, BBC Pictures, SL
Jessie is a real-life figure, credited with virtually founding mass trade unionism for women in Britain. In 1931 she led 10,000 non-unionised women in going on strike for a whole week from the Lucas motor vehicle electric light factory, inspiring many more to join unions. She was a tireless campaigner for female workers’ rights, as seen in Peaky Blinders when she takes on Tommy Shelby over the wages he pays.
Who is Charlie Murphy?
Irish actress Charlie Murphy first came to attention playing Siobhan Delaney in RTÉ drama Love/Hate. Since then she has cropped up in Sally Wainwright dramas Happy Valley (playing abducted Ann Gallagher) and To Walk Invisible (as Anne Bronte). Last year she returned to Irish TV in Rebellion and has a role in 2017 film The Foreigner with Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan.
Linda Shelby (played by Kate Phillips)
Linda Shelby, BBC Pictures, SL
Arthur’s devout wife Linda had successfully broken his ties with brother Tommy, instilling them in rural isolation away from the Peaky gang. But a new threat catapults the couple back into the bosom of the family and Linda struggles with the pull on her and Arthur’s moral way of life. Can she keep her husband on the straight and narrow?
Who is Kate Phillips?
Kate Phillips’ first major role was playing Jane Seymour in BBC2’s award-winning Wolf Hall, before going on to star as Lise Bolkonskaya in War & Peace. Aside from Peaky Blinders, she’s also taken on roles in period dramas The Crown (as Winston Churchill’s fictional secretary Venetia Scott) and My Mother and Other Strangers (as Tillie Zeigler).
Esme Shelby (played by Aimée-Ffion Edwards)
Esme Shelby, BBC Pictures, SL
Wife of John, Esme is from the Lee gypsy family and is fiercely protective of her family, trying as hard as she can to keep her husband away from Tommy’s bad influence. She and John have a passionate relationship, but Esme also finds solace in the bottom of a bottle.
Who is Aimée Ffion-Edwards?
Aimée’s first taste of fame came in 2006 when she appeared on Welsh TV show Wawffactor – an early equivalent to Pop Idol – finishing runner up. Since then she’s played Sketch in Skins, Jenny Jones in Luther and, more recently, Sophie in BBC4 series The Detectorists. She and Mackenzie Crook also appeared together in Jez Butterworth’s play Jerusalem, a role she reprised when the production transferred to Broadway. Aimée has a part in the BBC and Netflix’s 2018 series Troy: Fall of A City.
Lizzie Stark (played by Natasha O’Keeffe)
Lizzie Stark, BBC Pictures, SL
A former prostitute and Tommy’s assistant, Lizzie is one of his keenest allies, sticking by him through thick and thin – even when his family want nothing to do with him. Will she be the one to help him reconnect with them?
Who is Natasha O’Keeffe?
Eagle-eyed Sherlock fans will recognise Natasha as the titular Abominable Bride, Emelia Ricoletti, in the 2016 Sherlock special. But besides causing headaches for Benedict Cumberbatch, she appeared in Oasis’s music video for Falling Down, as well as BBC3’s Lip Service, Jekyll and Hyde (playing Fedora) and the final two series of Misfits as Abbey Smith.
Alfie Solomons (played by Tom Hardy)
Alfie Solomons, BBC Pictures, SL
Intelligent and manipulative, Alfie is a London gang leader in league with Tommy Shelby. The two have a complicated relationship – with Alfie crossing his business partner not once but twice – but the charismatic Jew is an important ally for the wounded Shelbys. Will he stay loyal or exploit their weaknesses?
Who is Tom Hardy?
Where to start? Tom Hardy is another long-time collaborator of Christopher Nolan, appearing in Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and Dunkirk. He earned an Oscar nomination for The Revenant and last year starred in the acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road. Hardy’s other notable film roles include Locke, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Black Hawk Down and Legend, while on TV he has starred in Band of Brothers, Wuthering Heights and – most recently – created and played the lead in BBC1 drama Taboo.
May Carleton (played by Charlotte Riley)
May Carleton, BBC Pictures, SL
Aristocratic horse trainer May once loved Tommy before he chose Grace for his wife. Will she open her heart to the widower when she enters his life once more or keep her old wounds firmly under wraps?
Who is Charlotte Riley?
Tom Hardy’s real-life wife joined the cast of Peaky Blinders for series two. The pair met playing star-crossed lovers Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights on ITV, before appearing together again in Sky1 series The Take. Riley has also forayed into films, playing Nance with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow, and showed up on TV screens earlier this year in BBC2 drama King Charles II.
Aberama Gold (played by Aidan Gillen)
Aberama Gold, BBC Pictures, SL
Aberama Gold is a gypsy with little regard for the rules. But when the Shelby family regroup back in Birmingham, they need soldiers to help defend them from the Mafia threat. Aberama fits the bill – but will Tommy regret joining forces with this slippery customer?
Who is Aidan Gillen?
He may look a million miles from Westeros, but Game of Thrones fans will no doubt recognise Aidan Gillen as the devious Lord Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger. The Irish star appeared in series one to seven of the HBO fantasy drama, but is also known as Tommy Carcetti in The Wire and Stuart Alan Jones in Queer as Folk. On the silver screen he has played CIA operative Bill Wilson in The Dark Knight Rises and more recently appeared as villainous Janson in the Maze Runner franchise.
This article was originally published in November 2017