Peaky Blinders: Fighting to play Grace

Actress

Attention: This post contains spoilers and is intended for viewers who have already seen episode one of Peaky Blinders.

When I first read the script for Peaky Blinders I was instantly enthralled by it.

Set in 1919 within the fast-paced and exciting post war slums of Birmingham, I instantly fell for the role of Grace.

A man's world: Grace (Annabelle Wallis) flanked by the Peaky Blinders

Steve Knight had written the most powerfully strong and strikingly intelligent female roles.

They are feisty and fearless with sharp intellect and this so matches up with how I see womankind. This is what women are like!

Steve had written his female characters in the form of so many women I know in my life. I think the draw of the show is that women and men will relate to these complex, flawed, beautiful characters.

My character Grace has a mystery about her and I was fascinated by her strength.

The bravery that drives Grace into the lair of the notorious Peaky Blinders gang made her fascinating to me.

Driven by some kind of disturbing loss she is a powerhouse of strength and a match to any man, particularly at a time so unlike our own when women were considered second class citizens and female education was not encouraged.

'This whole enterprise was women's business while you boys were at war' Aunt Pol (Helen McCrory)

Women were denied the right to vote unless they were 30 and met the minimum property qualifications.

With all the factors against women at the time, her absolute fearlessness and almost maddening bravery and dedication to her cause meant that I had to fight my hardest to have the chance to play her.

Parts like that don't come along very often.

Taking into account all the above factors you'd expect Grace to be hardened by the time she lived in, but she has this unexpected relatable fragility about her.

A fragility that (I hope!) makes the audience like and root for her as she comes from such an honest place.

The beauty in people I find are in their flaws and Grace is hugely flawed and knows it.

From the moment I read her I wanted to follow her journey until I understood her completely.

When taking on the part there was of course so much research to be done as it was set in such an incredible time in British history.

Try to imagine your life in the throes of a world war with the young men in your city, town, village sent away without a choice.

There was the suffragette movement fighting for women’s right to vote, the Separatist movement in Ireland and then a horrific world war.

I wanted to get inside these people’s heads and do my best to understand the pressures upon them.

What would it be like for a generation of men and women at the end of a war who suffer with post-traumatic stress?

It was so much to do with the politics of the time that triggered certain groups of people like the Peaky Blinders, and understanding their use of violence as a form of expression and as their voice.

Grace is a double-agent, she has many different sides. She plays both Campbell and Tommy to a T!

Off to the races: Grace and Tommy (Cillian Murphy) get ready to meet Billy Kimber

It was hard because I never thought her true intention was to harm but her conviction and dedication to her cause is unwavering, meaning standing by choices that you know could potentially harm her.

What I love is that Tommy, this dangerous and feared man, becomes her moral compass.

A woman you thought was unwavering at the start eventually gives you a sense that she is beginning to feel. She is human like us all.

We all make mistakes and cause hurt and pain... Let’s see what lies ahead for our Grace.

Grace receives new information from Chief Inspector Campbell (Sam Neill)

The beauty of Peaky Blinders is also in the way it is shot. In the hands of Otto Bathurst and Tom Harper it looks like it’s made for the cinema and it felt like a movie on set.

The locations and sets were epic! Most of the filming took place in Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool or often we were pitched up in a muddy field somewhere.

We were generally damp and bloody freezing! But in all honesty the conditions helped as it made it more real.

Sincerely I couldn’t have done it without my handsome co-stars telling me my nose was dribbling in the cold every five minutes... a sure way to make you feel very unsexy!

When you’re on a set like Peaky Blinders you don't want to leave. I'm sure most people can relate to being at work or doing something with people and feeling like it’s something really special.

You feed off everyone’s excitement and the sheer level of talent in all departments meant you wanted to work your hardest not to let them all down.

When that is the general consensus of the cast, crew and production team... it made for a unique environment. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did making it.

Annabelle Wallis plays Grace Burgess in Peaky Blinders.

Peaky Blinders continues with episode two at 9pm on Thursday, 19 September on BBC Two and BBC Two HD. For further programme times please see the episode guide.

More on Peaky Blinders
BBC News: Birmingham's real Peaky Blinders
Daily Mail: The real Peaky Blinders
Express & Star: I hate period TV shows - but Peaky Blinders was rock 'n' roll
The Telegraph: Peaky Blinders, BBC Two, review
The Guardian: TV and radio blog + Peaky Blinders: episode by episode

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Comments

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  • Comment number 67. Posted by Tessa Delaunay-Martin

    on 29 Oct 2013 18:00

    Hello, thanks to everyone for getting in touch, I'm the researcher on the TV blog. For those who are interested in the soundtrack, details can be found in the Music Played section on every episode page. You may also be interested in checking out BBC Playlister which is a new way to find and keep track of music you are interested in on the BBC (currently in beta).

  • Comment number 66. Posted by Leprechaun

    on 28 Oct 2013 12:34

    Sam Neil's northern Irish accent spoiled the Peaky Blinders for me so I hope we have seen the last of him in the next series of this excellent story,.

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  • Comment number 65. Posted by Cindy

    on 28 Oct 2013 11:06

    A superb series and am so pleased to hear that there will be a second series. It is so good it should surely be on BBC1 prime time television.. Although, born near London and am now back near London, I was brought up and went to school in Birmingham and love to see programmes on television set in the country's second city. The acting and actors in Peaky Blinders are so good. Well done BBC for this series!

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  • Comment number 64. Posted by diamondjudgejudy

    on 25 Oct 2013 17:26

    Well, last night was Thursday night and I was feeling so bereft as Peaky Blinders had finished the week before. So, back to my recording of episode one - the strains of the intro music really cheered me up - the hour flew by and of course I couldn't leave it there so went on to episode two. I'm looking forward to next week for episode three.
    It's been a fantastically brilliant series worth watching many times to appreciate the nuances, the acting and the way the music enhances the visuals.
    Can't wait for series 2. How long will BBC keep us waiting to let us know their decision?!

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  • Comment number 63. Posted by APB50

    on 23 Oct 2013 21:36

    Thought the series was top dollar ...BBC at its very best which could stand up against anything HBO could produce...just sad that I have just watched the last show:-(

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  • Comment number 62. Posted by Graham

    on 23 Oct 2013 21:08

    I loved this series as most others have commented,the acting the filming and gritty scenery i could almost smell it ! But for me i would love to know more about the music does anybody have any ideas ? credits i don't think help,perhaps we could have a soundtrack album ?

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  • Comment number 61. Posted by Jan Merricks

    on 23 Oct 2013 20:53

    Oh come on!! get over the not perfect brummie accent! Start to finish had me gripped! and the music was superb perfectly matched to the scene

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  • Comment number 60. Posted by Missile Toe n Whine

    on 21 Oct 2013 07:35

    Atmospheric and truly dark but the graphic use of 'jaggy bonnets' to music seemed to glorify a truly horrific act. Dangerous waters for the BBC then..

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  • Comment number 59. Posted by Dick

    on 20 Oct 2013 22:29

    Wow! Music, atmosphere, accents. This is probably the best bit of drama all year. Twenties Brum treated like a Spaghetti Western who cares about minor anachronisms, and accents vary in quite small areas. Did all the characters have to come from Birmingham? I have family going back several generations from all over the place.Another series please, but please keep the cast and Nick Cave's fabulous music! Best TV all year

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  • Comment number 58. Posted by Bill Williams

    on 20 Oct 2013 19:57

    I thought the drama was excellent and find no need to get petty about the accents. They were good enough for me to get the idea...and the quality of the acting was superb.
    A terrific yarn.
    As to the music...Brilliant. It reminded me of the discordant noises that would have been going on inside the foundries...hammers on anvils and the first ring of a newly cast bell.
    Money very well spent BBC...unlike the clangers dosh.

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