Peaky Blinders

An epic gangster drama starring Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill and Helen McCrory on BBC Two

Interview with Paul Anderson

I met [director Otto Bathurst] and I got this enthusiasm from him and this impression from him that it just felt really right, it felt really good, and I just thought I really want to do this, it’s something I really want to be part of."Paul Anderson
Category: BBC Two; Drama

Tell us about your character Arthur Shelby

When you first see him, Arthur is head of the family, he’s in charge of what’s going on, described by Sam Neill as the lead pack dog of the Peaky Blinders. It’s interesting because I had a lot of conversations about this and Arthur’s content with the world as it is and the Peaky Blinders as they are. Basically running pubs, running gambling rackets, but his ambition is where it is. I mean he doesn’t want any more. If he can walk into a club, if his name or the Shelby name is enough of an intimidation and a threat to people, then that’s enough for him. He doesn’t have the ambition that Tommy has.

How does Arthur deal with Tommy’s ambition to be head of the family?

Tommy’s got bigger ambition, he’s got much more drive than Arthur. Arthur is old fashioned, doesn’t really want it to change much but Tommy’s got all this vision and all these bigger dreams to take us further and further. Arthur drinks a lot, you could say his drinking’s out of control, his womanising’s out of control - he’s a tough, hard man. I mean, he’s his father’s son essentially. You witness that pretty soon, and Thomas wants to change the whole thing. It’s really subtle the way it’s done as Arthur sort of steps back and he just lets it happen. But he’s not happy for it to happen. He’s reluctant but it happens regardless.

What attracted you to the role?

First of all the script, the writer, Steven Knight, and I think what really did it was when I met Otto Bathurst, who directed the first three episodes. I met him and I got this enthusiasm from him and this impression from him that it just felt really right, it felt really good, and I just thought I really want to do this, it’s something I really want to be part of.

Arthur is quite a violent character. How did you find trying to play that kind of role?

They’re the most interesting roles to play: violent, brutal, dark characters. There’s so much scope because you can do the obvious brutish kind of stuff, but then you can play the sort of different layers with a violent man. There’s a reason for that sort of behaviour and mentality. Men were hard men and if they weren’t then they were left behind. It was a pleasure to play Arthur Shelby. Much better than playing the nice guy.

What do you think makes the series special?

There are so many things that I love about it, I think the whole thing is completely different for a start. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen. It’s been a real joy and it looks great.