Steven Knight is the creator of Peaky Blinders, which follows the exploits of a fictional Birmingham gang of the same name who terrorize their city following the First World War. The show focuses on the family’s rise to power and how it was threatened in the third season by new threats from within and without. In this interview, he discusses how the show captures the brutality of gang life and why he decided to set it in Birmingham, England. The Creator of Peaky Blinders on How the Show Captures the Brutality of Gang Life

Meet Tommy Shelby

The creator and lead character in Peaky Blinders, Cillian Murphy, may be Irish (in real life), but his character is based on a man named Alfie Solomons. A Jewish gangster from London’s East End during World War I, Solomons and his men were known for sewing razor blades into their flat caps. He was able to maintain a criminal empire and successfully evade arrest by bribing police officers and government officials. His business model was eventually copied by everyone from Al Capone to Pablo Escobar.

Peaky Blinders Series 6 Trailer

The Creator of Peaky Blinders on How the Show Captures the Brutality of Gang Life

The long-awaited fifth series began its six-episode run last month, but fans have had to wait almost a year to get another series. The first teaser was released at Christmas 2017 and new episodes continue in January 2018. Somebody asked me if I was going to do a prequel, Cillian Murphy, who plays Thomas Shelby told Esquire Magazine. I think he was joking.

Catch Up Before Watching the Show

If you’re new to a show, and have never seen it before, start from season one! While current seasons may be trending, previous seasons will give you background info so that you understand what’s going on in current episodes. It also gives you time to get invested in characters and fully appreciate storylines. For example, if you want to watch Game of Thrones but haven’t started yet—start with season one.

The Creator of Peaky Blinders on How the Show Captures the Brutality of Gang Life
The Creator of Peaky Blinders on How the Show Captures the Brutality of Gang Life

Understand how Britain Felt After WWI

While World War I is often remembered for its devastating, brutal battlefields, there’s a reason why our next generation focuses much more on World War II. The aftermath of World War I was incredibly brutal—thousands of British men returning home with serious injuries and lives forever changed by the war. This isn’t what Peaky Blinders is necessarily about, but it helps to paint a picture in your mind while you watch. There are elements of British culture from that time period that are still prevalent today—it’s also interesting to try and guess which historical figures inspired certain characters in Peaky Blinders.

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See What Made Peaky Blinders Unique and Important

Steven Knight, creator of BBC’s Peaky Blinders, says that there are certain characteristics of gang life he wants to portray and maintain. He uses classic themes—oppression and resistance—to draw out audience sympathy for his characters. The show has received rave reviews for its intense depiction of early-20th-century Birmingham. Peaky Blinder was nominated for three BAFTA TV awards in 2016: best supporting actor (Helen McCrory), best mini series, and best drama series. What has made Peaky Blinders a hit? See what made it unique from the get-go and why audiences loved it so much!

Consider Being a Fan

If you’re someone who likes to binge shows, you know how it feels to get hooked. You watch three episodes in a row and then go about your business and wait for that next episode. Steven Knight, creator of BBC’s hit series Peaky Blinders, will tell you that he had no idea when he started working on his show that it would create such a fan following. But because he’s got an ear for what people want to see, he keeps writing each season with just enough twists and turns to keep viewers glued to their screens. On how Peaky Blinders captures realistic gang violence: There is a brutal quality to life at street level in Birmingham in 1919, says Knight.

The Creator of Peaky Blinders on How the Show Captures the Brutality of Gang Life
The Creator of Peaky Blinders on How the Show Captures the Brutality of Gang Life

I mean you can’t avoid violence

That violence was absolutely intrinsic to Birmingham. You know, we hear it said a lot now: Oh it was so violent back then. Well, I don’t buy that at all. It was so violent then because there wasn’t any government help whatsoever from anyone. People went out there, had families and went into business for themselves and if you didn’t fight your corner you didn’t exist as a man in those days really.

I remember doing the first scene with Cillian Murphy and Helen McCrory who play Tommy Shelby and Aunt Polly

it was a really big scene where Tommy comes back to Birmingham after being away at war, he’s been fighting with Kitchener in Egypt. He comes back from war and finds that his family has essentially been usurped by these guys called The Small Families, who are basically just all these kids who have turned into monsters, who have grown up in poverty after a recession has affected their families and stuff like that. They’re very violent and they’ve essentially taken over his city; they rule it. They don’t even know why they do what they do but everything is based around violence.

They meet in this little pub over near Aston Hall, where I used to go for horse riding as a kid, which was about 15 miles away from my school

I used to take a bus there, and I’d go out with all these posh girls from my school. We’d have to stop at Alderley Edge and Aston Hall, where they’d get off to pick up some horse manure; they used it as fertiliser. So when Steven [Knight] said that he was going to film at Aston Hall, I got very excited because of these memories; it just seemed so appropriate. What’s more is that my dad used to race bikes in Alderley Edge: he raced around what’s now known as The Ings. It was part of training for racing bikes in southern France. He never won anything though!

The Creator of Peaky Blinders on How the Show Captures the Brutality of Gang Life
The Creator of Peaky Blinders on How the Show Captures the Brutality of Gang Life

It really got me into trouble, because every time we had half term or school holidays I used to sneak off from my boarding school and get picked up there

I wanted to see my friends, I didn’t want to go to school. So I did that for three years—I used to miss at least a week every time they had their holidays. Then in my A-levels, I just said, I’m not going back; you can do what you like. And because by then I was 17 and almost 18, nobody could do anything about it. I was gone. And that’s when we made Peaky Blinders together. It was a way of getting me off school so we made it into a little film production company and went out making movies every day after lessons with all my mates as actors and everyone in Birmingham as crew and cast.

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So at night when they were shooting they would turn all these horses out onto this huge plain field next door to where we were filming.

It’s pretty safe to say that Peaky Blinders is probably one of, if not THE most popular show in Britain right now. I was actually involved in series three in a very small way. When you first started out were you a fan of gritty gangster-related dramas?: Oh yeah! I mean I love all that stuff — we’re big fans! That’s why we tried to make it look really realistic — and because people liked it we decided to keep making it.: The show has obviously been a massive success.

We literally got back very late and then the car had to drop me off at home in Cannock Chase where I lived…

The Peaky Blinders were a gang based in Birmingham’s Small Heath area, named for their practice of sewing razor blades into the peaks of their caps. Their main competitors were other Brummie gangs, especially those from Balsall Heath and Ladywood. They also had various skirmishes with groups from Aston, including Aston Wood Posse. Like most criminal organizations at that time, they ran protection rackets on local businesses and black market activities during WWI.

Q & A

Will there be season 7 of Peaky Blinders?

At present, it’s unclear whether or not season 7 will happen, because all involved parties have expressed uncertainty about their future involvement with the show. Executive producer Caryn Mandabach revealed that Knight had said he was ready to end it after season 6, though he could change his mind at any time. The BBC has told Digital Spy that there are no plans for a series seven as yet (meaning nothing is officially signed off), but it’s been reported that Tom Hardy – who plays Alfie Solomons in season 6 – is signed up for one more year. So whether there will be a seventh installment or not remains to be seen. We won’t know until 2019, at least…

Is Peaky Blinders based on a true story?

What is Peaky Blinders? Created by Steven Knight, a Birmingham-based writer and filmmaker, it’s a BBC drama about Tommy Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy), a feared gang leader who returns from service in World War I to resume his life of crime. His enterprise has grown considerably thanks to his efforts during the war to end all wars; now he leads The Peaky Blinders, an urban gang from England’s second city. The storyline alternates between 1919 Birmingham and 1924 Harlem. It feels like hyperbole to say that it is currently my favorite show on television – not just my favorite crime show but my favorite TV series, period – but that is how strongly I feel about it.

The Creator of Peaky Blinders on How the Show Captures the Brutality of Gang Life
The Creator of Peaky Blinders on How the Show Captures the Brutality of Gang Life

Is Peaky Blinders worth watching?

The show is fantastic for many reasons, but in particular, it does a great job at showing just how brutal gang life can be. It’s not something that usually makes its way into popular culture – despite its prevalence in certain areas – so if you’re looking for an insider’s perspective from someone who knows what he’s talking about, Steven Knight is definitely worth a listen. His interview with Complex helped create a better picture of his experiences growing up surrounded by gangs and violence. The main takeaway: Being part of a gang can be incredibly powerful (in both positive and negative ways), but it’s hard to maintain. In order to keep everyone together and ensure unity within your group, you need constant communication.

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What did Tommy Shelby suffer from?

In Peaky Blinders, Cillian Murphy plays Thomas Shelby, a gangster in post-World War I Birmingham. While fans can’t help but be taken with his brooding good looks and sharp wit, there’s much more to him than meets the eye. His character suffers from a head injury—cauliflower ear is still often referred to as Tommy Shelby ear—which may seem minor, but played a significant role in his characterization. It was one reason show creator Steven Knight wrote him into his own crime drama in 2013; it was also why he made sure that Murphy had an actual cauliflower ear for filming. He felt it added to Thomas’ story and helped inform who he is.

What is Tommy Shelby’s haircut called?

A Fade haircut. It’s basically a high and tight cut, but with a little bit longer top section that is kept loose. The term fade actually refers to how it cuts around your ear/head. For example, I typically ask for a fade with tapered sides, while Keira Knightley prefers a high and tight fade (but not as high or tight as a marine). In any case, keep in mind that once you start getting above 1 or 2 inches in length then it starts to become more of an actual men’s haircut and less edgy/street/gangster.

Is Finn Tommy Shelby’s brother?

Steven Knight doesn’t want to reveal much about what’s to come, but it sounds like Tommy will be dealing with some family drama during season three. Tommy is a very strong personality and a very strong character, Knight says. He has his own self-destructive elements that he’ll need to learn how to manage. Will that include brother Finn? We may find out in due time.

Why is Peaky Blinders so popular?

It’s got a ton going for it: compelling characters, period drama, Brummie accents, and, most importantly of all, Cillian Murphy sporting some rather fetching headgear. But what really sets it apart is its brutal realism. No sugar-coating here. The show not only gives us a fascinating window into life in Birmingham at that time but also unashamedly charts the violent rise to power of Tommy Shelby as he runs his family’s gang like an efficient business enterprise (cue shot). At every turn they are met with pushback from rival gangs and crooked police officers who themselves have some seriously shady dealings on their plates.

Did Thomas Shelby exist?

The real Thomas Shelby is a long-forgotten figure in British history who ran bootlegging operations in Britain’s port cities during prohibition. That’s where he got his name, but nothing else about him resembles Cillian Murphy’s character. One account of Shelby, however, reads almost exactly like Tommy’s story arc in season one: He was viciously assaulted by gangsters led by … Jack ‘Spot’ Comer after he refused to pay protection money to Comer. However, [he] was released as his attackers were unaware that they had stabbed a man with a serious reputation. … It was not until then that others realised how tough and fearless [Shelby] actually was.

What do Peaky Blinders mean?

In British English, peaky means ‘suspicious’, as in to give someone a peaky look. The ‘blinders’ bit comes from what they call horse blinkers. If you’ve ever seen an old-timey horse and carriage you’ll know they have a leather mask that’s made to cover their eyes. They’re usually called blinders, because when people use them on horses it makes them ignore distractions and go straight ahead.

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