Now, this is one fearsome woman in Peaky Blinders who is not to be messed with.


Speaking exclusively to, Irish actress Charlene McKenna discussed portraying the role of Captain Swing in the final season of the BBC One drama.

The character made her debut in the previous run but plays a much larger role this time around.

In fact, a major moment occurred in the season 6 premiere as a result of Captain Swing's actions, leaving viewers emotional over the exit of Polly Gray, played by the late Helen McCrory.
"My role in that is to be as cutthroat as possible," reveals Charlene. "It’s up for me to take the role and be the bad guy, take it on the chin – and hope that people remember that I am an actress. We're two different people.

"We’ve already seen that she is not to be played with. She will just take people out that get in the way - no qualms whatsoever. So Tommy knows that he's dealing with someone very formidable and tricky."

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Who is Captain Swing in Peaky Blinders?

Finn Cole (Michael Gray) and Charlene McKenna (Captain Swing) in Peaky Blinders |
Finn Cole (Michael Gray) and Charlene McKenna (Captain Swing) in the latter's debut in Peaky Blinders season 5 BBC/Matt Squire © Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd.

Captain Swing is an alias of the character named Laura McKee.

First appearing in Peaky Blinders season 5, Captain Swing is a fictional leading member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Swing calls Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) near the start of the fifth season to inform him that her forces have captured Michael Gray (Finn Cole) in Ireland from forces trying to kill him while on his passage back to the United Kingdom from the United States.

She offers to either kill or free Michael and Tommy asks him to be freed, despite her insistence that Tommy should not trust him.

In the sixth season premiere, Swing calls Tommy following the failed assassination attempt on Sir Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin) at the end of the previous season.

Taking credit for its failure and the murders of Barney Thompson (Cosmo Jarvis) and Aberama Gold (Aidan Gillen), Swing has their bodies delivered to Tommy’s home, along with a third described as Tommy’s “crutch”.

Tommy unwraps this third body to find his aunt Polly Gray, who is not seen on-camera due to the death of actress Helen McCrory.

Tommy Shelby (CILLIAN MURPHY), Arthur Shelby (PAUL ANDERSON), Captain Swing (CHARLENE McKENNA)
Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy, left) and Arthur Shelby (Paul Anderson, centre) meet with Captain Swing in season 6 BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd/Robert Viglasky

Speaking about her role in the final season, actress Charlene McKenna exclusively told "I think what she and her organisation give to Tommy, in terms of the story, is a great, great antagonism because he has to do a dance between them, between Mosley, between his own lot… [and] his head is tortured, so [it’s] just really ruining his life."

So, where does Captain Swing go next, in relation to her IRA activities and relationship with Sir Oswald Mosley's fascist movement?

“It gets really complicated. At the minute she's IRA, but that's going to shift, which is where Mosley comes in. So there's a much bigger, complicated plan afoot," continues Charlene.

"They've [Tommy and Swing] been doing business for four years together, back and forth, and it's now gaining momentum with Tommy getting into America, which is to do with money, which is to do with weapons."

The second episode of the season sees her hesitantly teaming up with Tommy to do business with - but secretly undermine - Boston gangsters and fascists.

The instalment also confirms Captain Swing's real name: Laura McKee.

Why did Captain Swing kill Polly Gray?

Helen McCrory as Polly Gray in Peaky Blinders
Helen McCrory as Polly Gray in Peaky Blinders BBC

So, given her complicated business relationship with Thomas Shelby, why did Captain Swing murder Polly Gray?

"They needed rid of Aunt Polly because they are in business for the opium, and Polly was always opposed to that," notes McKenna. "So they take no prisoners, as you can see, with anything that gets in the way of her mission, their mission, which is ostensibly money to fight for their cause, which is a united Ireland."

However, the actress notes that this means Captain Swing will be disliked by the show's fanbase for what she did to Polly.

“I was like 'I'm going to be the most hated person in England' because I would hate me because I, like every other fan, adore Polly's character and Helen McCrory the actress," comments McKenna.
Despite awareness of the fan reaction to her character, McKenna was full of praise for the way the series paid tribute to Helen McCrory.

"I think they handled a very sad, very difficult thing very beautifully. I think someone counted and it was basically a two-minute silence," recognises McKenna of Polly's funeral scene. "[Director] Anthony [Bryne] did that so beautifully. And it's a very hard thing to do. But yes, I'm bearing the brunt of being the reason that Polly is no longer with us. And everyone hates me, which is great."

Who plays Captain Swing and what else have they been in?

Charlene McKenna
Actress Charlene McKenna portrays Captain Swing

Captain Swing/Laura McKee is portrayed by Irish actress Charlene McKenna.

Best known for her role in the Irish series Pure Mule, McKenna has also appeared in Irish series such as Single-Handed 2, Raw and Whistleblower.

McKenna has also appeared in British dramas Ripper Street, Vienna Blood and Bloodlands, the last of which is due to return for a second season.

*Additional reporting by Abby Robinson.

Peaky Blinders airs on BBC One on Sundays at 9pm and is available to catch up on iPlayer now. Check out our Drama hub for more news, interviews and features or find something to watch with our TV guide.


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