Peaky Blinders, the hit crime drama series on Netflix, follows the highs and lows of many gangsters from Birmingham in the 1920s. Who knew a crime family could get so many people around the world hooked on the suspense?
The binge-worthy series spellbinds its audience with dazzling settings in England and a glimpse of history enriched by riveting storylines. As you wait for season six of this critically acclaimed Steven Knight direction, here are bits and pieces you probably never knew about it.
The Nature of the Gang’s Name
Apparently, Peaky Blinders is a gang’s name, but there seems to be an issue about the origin of the term. Historian John Douglas believes that the name came from gang members who sew razors into their flat caps.
The American company Gillette introduced the first replaceable razors in 1903, and the UK got them in 1908. Historian Carl Chinn thinks that the Peaky Blinders could not afford razors at the time since they were considered a luxury item.
His theory is that Peaky Blinders maybe just named after the weapon, which refers to the peaks of their caps in which razors were sewn into. Moreover, he thinks that sewing a razor blade into a hat would not easily command direction and authority.
Steven Knight’s Inspiration
Knight said his family was associated with Peaky Blinders, but they were acknowledged as the Sheldon’s instead of the Shelbys. Knight’s father told him stories that eventually inspired the writer to create the series.
Knight told HistoryExtra about the story that motivated him to write Peaky Blinders. He remembered receiving a piece of paper from his father when he was about eight or nine.
The message in the paper said, “go and deliver this to your uncles.” The Sheldons, who became Shelbys, were his uncles, but Knight did not further explain the message.
While Peaky Blinders’ story is set in Birmingham, not much of the series is actually filmed. The production team explored the country to search for places with a Victorianesque vibe.
Most of the episodes in Peaky Blinders were shot in Liverpool and some at the Granada Studios in Manchester. You may notice the Black Country museum, where Uncle Charlie’s dockyard is and where the Shelby brothers have dealings.
The Shelby families’ houses are on Powis Street, Liverpool, while Aunt Polly’s home is in Port Sunlight, a model village in the Wirral, Merseyside.
Other filming locations are the Arley Hall in Cheshire, Manchester Town Hall, the Victoria Baths in Manchester, Brooke’s Mill in Huddersfield, Leeds Town Hall, Bolton, Newby Hall & Gardens, Ripon, and the Keighley and Worth Valley Steam Railway.
The Peaky Blinders Pub
If you’re an avid fan, you know that the local pub The Garrison is the favorite “hangout spot” of the Peaky Blinders. In fact, they are on good terms with the owner, Harry Fenton.
The pub is a key element in the story. Tommy buys the property for his brother Arthur, and they become its owners. The real Garrison, The Garrison Tavern, is located on Garrison Lane in Birmingham.
The Garrison was auctioned at Villa Park several years ago, and it has a price that ranges from £160,000 to £175,000 plus VAT. The Sun reported that the Peaky Blinders cast was seen filming in the pub again in 2021 for its sixth and final series.
What is the nationality of the real-life Peaky Blinders? Online reports show that they had Irish, English, and even Gypsy roots.
The Shelby family seems to have Gypsy blood in the show. Aunt Polly, the Shelby Family matriarch, reveals to Michael Gray that his grandmother was a Gypsy Princess.
Meanwhile, the members of the Shelby family sometimes speak Romany on the show. Arthur Shelby Sr. is portrayed by Scottish actor Tommy Flanagan, who has an Irish accent.
The Non-Smoker “Smokes”
Tommy Shelby is always seen smoking in the show, especially when he is coming up with a new scheme. But Cillian Murphy, the actor who plays Tommy, is not a smoker, so how does he do it?
When a scene requires him to smoke, he actually smokes herbal rose-scented cigarettes instead. Those cigarettes release some aroma but do not have any tobacco or nicotine.
They only contain dried herbs such as lemongrass, mint, and cinnamon. Murphy learned from the prop department that he has already smoked over 3,000 herbal cigarettes throughout the years of filming.
It’s a Family Affair
The Peaky Blinders narrative revolves around family. It turns out that it goes beyond the storylines since some of the actors have family ties.
Finn Cole plays Michael Gray, and his brother, Joe Cole, plays John Shelby. They are brothers in real life but act as long-lost cousins in Peaky Blinders.
Joe came to the show earlier than Finn. Joe persuaded his brother Finn to audition for the role of Michael Gray for the second series.
The Return of Gina
Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays Gina Gray in Peaky Blinders, may return to the show for its final series as Michael Gray’s wife. In an interview on the Obsessed podcast, Peaky Blinders director Anthony Byrne said that the sixth season would show Gina and her family.
There is a chance that Taylor-Joy, who starred in another Netflix hit series titled The Queen’s Gambit, will appear again. It remains uncertain because the sixth season production was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taylor-Joy also has many other projects in the pipeline, including an unnamed David O. Russell movie and the Mad Max: Fury Road prequel Furiosa. When she was offered the role of Gina in Peaky Blinders, Taylor-Joy told Deadline that she was excited about the role and working with “a talented group of people.”
The Problem With the Peaky Blinders Accent
One of the most scrutinized elements in Peaky Blinders is the accents of the characters. Actor Sam Neill, who plays Chief Inspector Campbell, consulted Northern Irish actors Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt about the Northern Irish accent of his character.
However, he was forced to tone down his new accent because it is being shown in the US. Knight admitted from the start that the thick Birmingham accents for the show are difficult to get.
The director learned that people in the US watch the show with subtitles on. Dialect coach Elspeth Morrison of the Central School of Speech and Drama told BBC that lips must poke forward and be formed like a rosebud when speaking in Birmingham accents.
The Truth About Women in the 1920s
Is the interpretation of the role of women in Peaky Blinders historically accurate? Knight told Radio Times that he wanted to emphasize women’s role in working-class communities, especially when men were away at war.
Knight’s intention is seen in the character of Aunt Pol, portrayed by Helen McCrory. Historian Carl Chinn said that there were strong women in the past, but they were not active in gang activities.
In a transcript published on Ember, Chinn explained that women’s roles in the community before included “laying out the dead, bringing babies into the world, sorting youngsters out and bringing them to order.”
Some women became active in fighting for better conditions, including the trade union leader Jessie Eden, who was also portrayed in the show.
The Peaky Blinders Fashion
Are you a dedicated fan who wants to dress like you are a member of Peaky Blinders? You need a three-piece suit, a newsboy cap, detachable collars, and a heavy overcoat.
Do not forget to accessorize your attire with pocket watches, ties, tie bars, and single Albert chains. The Peaky Blinders are immediately identified through their clothing style.
In the show, they have to be distinguishable from other rich English men and poor community members. You’ll also notice that the secondary characters wear collarless shirts.
No Scene Was Shot in London
Grant Montgomery, the production designer for Peaky Blinders, revealed to BBC that no London scene was shot in actual London. They found a crescent in Bolton where they shot scenes that happen outside the Eden club.
The trick that Montgomery and the rest of the production team did was to add vintage cars to the street. They also placed gravel on double yellow lines, replaced ticket machines with police boxes, and modified the light fittings.
Giant smoke machines gave the area a different atmosphere. “For the Camden Lock scenes, we used a canal basin called Ellesmeer Port just outside Liverpool, which was an absolutely perfect match. We then blended a cityscape behind using CGI,” he said in an interview with BBC.
With a brilliant cast, gripping storylines, and a world-class production, Peaky Blinders will go down in history as one of the most remarkable crime shows ever made. Reports say that the highly anticipated final series is being shot with care due to the pandemic.
While Peaky Blinders won’t be a seven-season run originally planned, Knight promised the show’s supportive fans that the ending will feel like a movie, a send-off they truly deserve!