Peaky Blinders was without doubt one of the surprise packages of original British drama in 2013; a smouldering, gritty depiction of a 1920’s Birmingham back alley power struggle, boasting a Hollywood calibre cast and infused with a rousing rock-tinged soundtrack.
It’s not a moment too soon then that we get set to welcome the arrival of the second season of Steven Knight’s pulsating creation for BBC Two.
To prepare for its impending return, CultBox took a trip to the studio in Manchester earlier this year for a snoop around the set and a chat to some of the show’s cast and crew.
Here’s what we learned…
Season 2 will feature a bigger, more expansive world
Set in the underbelly of Birmingham with much of intense dialogue and explosive action of Season 1 taking place between ramshackle backstreets and worn interiors, the new season promises to be a bigger and more ambitious beast.
With The Peaky Blinders establishing themselves as top dogs and underground overlords following from their climactic Season 1 ascendancy, Tommy and the gang set their sights on greater things, with an ambitious expansion into London top of the list.
Of course it isn’t all plain sailing, according to star Cillian Murphy: “They encounter resistance to that expansion and then in the family there are all sorts of shenanigans going on. As always he’s [Tommy] trying to keep a lid on all that stuff while combining it with his expansion plans. It’s about the world getting bigger really.”
This is echoed by producer, Laurie Borg: “It’s a much more expansive world. They go from Birmingham and they’ve now started to get their claws into London, so we’ve got into a much more cosmopolitan world, a bigger world both in terms of set design and locations as he’s got more successful.”
But for fans of the first season, which won plaudits for the way it chose to focus on a region and a time period seldom seen on screen, Birmingham will remain an important part of the show, according to Laurie: “We’ve taken ourselves into a much bigger place with London coming in, but the heart is absolutely still Birmingham.”
Get set to see The Godfather given a British going over
There were plenty of comments on the influence of famous Westerns in Season 1, something that helped to give the series an identity of its own, but will we be seeing more of the same this year? Not so apparently, as the style and tone takes a far greater lean towards iconic American gangster films, namely, The Godfather:
“I was using Heaven’s Gate as a reference in Season 1”, said Production Designer, Grant Montgomery. “With Season 2 the references really are to The Godfather, to the point that his [Tommy’s] office is a total homage to The Godfather’s.”
But assured fans needn’t worry that this new season will be over-shadowed by its own influences, according to Cillian:
“If you make a gangster film or a gangster TV show, it’s a very narrow corridor that you operate in. You’re always going to be rubbing shoulders with the great movies and TV shows that have been made already, so you’ve got to wear your influences openly and you’ve got to stand on the shoulders of giants. But what makes this distinctive is that it’s very British and not American.
“Americans mythologise their gangsters wonderfully and we’ve never done that successfully I think until this show. So yes, you take your influences you have to, but you’ve got to put your own spin on it and I think that again is what’s great about the writing, is that it could only be Britain where this is set.”
The sets are much grander – and look out for a special shade of Peaky Blinders gold!
With more money and power, comes access to a richer world in all meanings of the word for Tommy and the Peaky Blinders, and so expect to see that reflected in a more lavish looking second season:
“The Garrison pub has been transformed”, said Grant Montgomery. “It’s been transformed because he’s [Tommy] gone to see London and he’s brought back an idea, and he’s done basically a Scarface on it. He’s done a kind of 1980’s Al Pacino, Brian De Palma Scarface on his own pub and it’s turned into this huge golden kind of Las Vegas mecca to his ambition.”
And for anyone looking to bring a taste of Peaky Blinders’ new season into their own interior décor, keep any eye out in your local DIY store for this year’s must have: “We’ve got a gold mixed that’s now called ‘Peaky Gold’ actually on the paint.”
The female characters will contribute a bigger slice of the action and intrigue this time around
While the female characters undoubtedly played their part in Season 1, few could argue that it was the male characters that dominated proceedings.
That’s set to change this time round though according to one of the show’s shining stars, Helen McCrory, who returns to reprise her role as matriarch Aunt Polly:
“Polly’s story this year is much more interesting. I don’t know whether he [Steve Knight] made a conscious effort, or it’s just what he found most interesting from the last series. I think you have to establish that the world of the Shelby’s, it is a man’s world, but once you’ve got that up and running, you can start to look at the women’s worlds which were much more delineated than they are now.
“So they are completely different characters and completely different sets and settings and everything. I’ve had a fantastic time this year. He’s written me one of my best parts I’ve ever played. So let’s hope I don’t fuck it up!”
If you like clear-cut heroes and villains, this isn’t the show for you
Everyone loves an anti-hero these days, particularly talented actors and actresses keen to take on demanding roles that require the ability to portray a multi-faceted spectrum of emotion and morality.
The intrigue brought out through the depth and conflicted nature of the characters is something that Cillian Murphy was keen to emphasise when it came to his eagerness to return to the world of the Peaky Blinders:
“I’m interested in the human condition; I’m interested in not the square jawed hero, that doesn’t interest me. Somebody said once, ‘if you’re going to play a miser, play his generosity’. And that’s interesting to me. So I like that, the duality. He [Tommy] has to do these things that none of us would agree with, and he operates with this code that none of us would necessarily agree with.
“And yet it’s compelling, and yet he has morals, and yet he does love and he has weaknesses. And so that to me is the most exciting type of character to play. Anything that is one dimensional is boring to play or to watch. Whereas something that is multi-dimensional and layered can be compelling if you do it justice. It’s stuff that I go to watch and it’s stuff that I try and be involved in.”
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