Peaky Blinders: Fighting to play Grace


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.


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