Women of Peaky Blinders reveal their grief at losing ‘heart of the show’ Helen McCrory ahead of the sixth and final series of the Birmingham crime drama
Straight-talking Polly Gray was never shy about dispensing advice to women who entered the murky world of the Peaky Blinders.
In an interview with today’s You magazine, Sophie Rundle, Natasha O’Keeffe and Kate Phillips pay tribute to the woman they called ‘the heart of the show’, and discuss the impact her death last year, at the age of 52, had on them.
Helen McCrory, 52, memorably portrayed the matriarch of the Birmingham crime family
Sophie, who plays Ada Thorne, says: ‘We were all completely devastated by losing her because she was part of the family.
‘Helen pushed you to be better because she didn’t take laziness at all. She made Polly so mercurial and so exciting to watch because she had that rare magic as an actor.’
Sophie, 33, who recently had a son with long-term partner Matt Stokoe, recalls how Helen comforted her when she broke up with a previous boyfriend.
‘We sat on the train and talked about how awful everything was. She always had that steel but when you got past that she also had generosity.
‘When you’d had your heart broken by some dashing ex-boyfriend, you wanted Helen McCrory to sit opposite you and tell you that everything was going to be OK.’
In an interview with today’s You magazine, Sophie Rundle, Natasha O’Keeffe and Kate Phillips pay tribute to the woman they called ‘the heart of the show’, and discuss the impact Helen McCrory’s death last year had on them
Kate, who plays Linda Shelby, says the drama’s female characters, as epitomised by Helen, have been key to its success.
‘They play a huge part, they’re incredibly influential,’ says the 32-year-old.
‘Those moments where we have come together as a team have been really powerful and memorable.’
Helen was unable to shoot scenes for the sixth and final series of Peaky Blinders, which begins this month.
The Peaky Blinders cast of Lizzie Stark (Natasha O’Keeffe), Esme Shelby (Aime-Ffion Edwards), Aunt Polly Gray (Helen McCrory), Linda Shelby (Kate Phillips)
Sophie, who plays Ada Thorne, says: ‘We were all completely devastated by losing her because she was part of the family’
Following her death from cancer, her husband, actor Damian Lewis, said: ‘She died as she lived. Fearlessly… She blazed so brightly.’
Natasha, 35, who plays Lizzie Shelby, says the cast and crew of the show become a ‘family during the months of filming’.
And she said of Helen’s absence: ‘I’m still reeling from losing her… The grief hits me in waves.’
Even after Helen’s death, she sought her support. ‘I’d almost speak to her [Helen] before some of my takes,’ she recalls.
‘She was very much there with me. I asked her for guidance.’