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The longer the Peaky Blinders hiatus goes on, the more questions there are to be answered. What's happening with Oswald Mosley? How many more times can characters come back as ghosts haunting Tommy Shelby before he gets an exorcism? What actually went down in the season five finale? And, most of all: when will it be back?
Though a release date is still unconfirmed (scroll to the bottom if you want to know exactly when Peaky Blinders is due back on our screens) production and filming for the new season was firmly underway before the coronavirus crisis and has recently picked back up again with location filming across northern England and the Scottish coast.
What should we expect from season six? Peaky Blinders creator and writer Steven Knight suggested that next time around we'll see the Shelbys set on the path to war – and we've put together a handy guide to what to watch while you're waiting for Peaky Blinders to return, you're very welcome – plus little tidbits which keep leaking out of Peaky HQ.
Knight and the cast have dropped some juicy details about the production of Peaky Blinders series six, the show's potential upcoming guest stars (and which faces are set to return), as well as some intriguing information about when it's set, which historical events it will explore and where the long-promised Peaky film will lead. So even though the next season is still a way off, we do already know the answers to some of Peaky Blinders season six's biggest questions.
Filming wrapped in late May 2021
Judging by director Anthony Byrne's Instagram feed, that is. It's hard to find another way to read a post of Byrne, his first assistant director Jon Midlane and cinematographer Mathieu Plainfossé looking satisfied with a day's work, holding a Peaky Blinders clapperboard, with the caption "Done & done & done". That does rather suggest it's done.
Nonetheless, we've not heard a peep since then. With nothing really concrete to base a release date on yet, it would be a massive surprise if anything turned up before the end of 2021.
Paul Anderson reckons it's "an opus"...
At the end of August, the formerly dead but very much back from the grave Arthur Shelby dropped a picture of himself screaming in a room, on his knees.
"The camera work of Mr Bell paired with a visionary DR [director, we're going to guess?] tells you S6 will be an opus- it is not to be missed …… [sic]," it reads.
Two sets of ellipses there. Interesting. Very interesting.
...and he's also given us an extremely cryptic clue about something or other
The post continues, apropos of nothing at all: “a statuette of Pazuzu, circa 8th century BC, Louvre saved by [sic] Dionysus God of the vine, grape-harvest, wine-making, wine, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, theatre”.
Even for an Anderson Insta post this is a densely packed bit of obtuse referencing, so let's break it down. Pazuzu was a figure in ancient Mesopotamian religion, the king of the demons of the wind, and is probably best known as the demon from The Exorcist.
The Exorcist account was tagged in the picture too, so possibly there's a trial of the soul to come for Arthur, who's always managed to walk just slightly more quickly than his demons. Then again, possibly he was just referencing a particularly gigantic Bank Holiday weekender.
His most recent Instagram post contains the most puzzling, labyrinthine riddle yet
"Thank you to the boys @westoneac who installed my new air conditioning system," it reads. "Different class. A great service and a team I would highly recommend. Proper outfit."
Good luck making head or tail of that one.
Tributes to Helen McCrory came in from all the Peaky family
After McCrory's sad death at the age of 52 in April, her co-stars and collaborators remembered her with a deluge of reminiscences and kind words. She was, it's fairly obvious, very much loved.
"I am broken-hearted to lose such a dear friend," said Cillian Murphy. "Helen was a beautiful, caring, funny, compassionate human being. She was also a gifted actor – fearless and magnificent. She elevated and made humane every scene, every character she played.
"It was a privilege to have worked with this brilliant woman, to have shared so many laughs over the years. I will dearly miss my pal. My love and thoughts are with Damian and her family."
"Devastated my friend Helen McCrory died today," wrote Sam Neill on Twitter, who appeared in season one. "That brilliant woman – the greatest of actors. I so loved our time on Peaky Blinders. She was witty, kind, skilled. Riotously funny… and so damn cool. So young. Heartbroken for Damien and her family."
Goodbye .Devastated my friend #HelenMcCrory died today . That brilliant woman- the greatest of actors. I so loved our time on #PeakyBlinders . She was witty , kind , skilled . Riotously funny .. and so damn cool. So young. Heartbroken for Damien +her family. pic.twitter.com/YHDYsV1VFh
— Sam Neill (@TwoPaddocks) April 16, 2021
"Helen was one of the great actors of her generation," added Steven Knight. "She was so powerful and controlled, and this is so sad."
Byrne joined his colleagues with an Instagram post.
"Many glasses were raised to Helen in Manchester on Friday night," he wrote. "Helen was a force of nature and her loss to film, tv and theatre is immense. More than that, it is the loss of the great work she would’ve gone on to do. I am honoured to have worked with her telling the story of the Shelby’s [sic] and watching her talent shine as the matriarch Polly Gray. She will be greatly missed by the Peaky family."
When shooting recommenced, it was with a clapperboard which celebrated McCrory's memory.
It will definitely be the final season
Weren't expecting that, were you? On 18 January the BBC not only announced that the sixth season of the show had returned to production, but also that it would be the very last.
Creator Steven Knight said: "Peaky is back and with a bang. After the enforced production delay due to the Covid pandemic, we find the family in extreme jeopardy and the stakes have never been higher. We believe this will be the best series of all and are sure that our amazing fans will love it. While the TV series will be coming to an end, the story will continue in another form."
Executive producer Caryn Mandabach said: "Along with our wonderful, supportive, partners at BBC and Netflix, we have been working diligently to ensure we can get Peaky safely back into production; the safety of our cast and crew is always our priority. Thank you to all the Peaky fans who have been so unwaveringly supportive and patient. Steve’s scripts are incredible and mark the end of an epic story that has entranced audiences since it first started in 2013, but the world of Peaky Blinders will most definitely live on."
Well there you have it. Looks like we're in for a fairly intense final run. No date yet, though.
Paul Anderson said it's "coming fkn soon"... last November
Anderson reassured fans in November 2020 that everything is actually progressing along the track, however slowly. On Instagram he posted an illustration of Arthur looking suitably grumpy about having been interrupted, plus the suggestion that season six will be "#comingfknsoon". Clearly not that fkn soon, though.
"Season 6 #comingfknsoon 🖤 thanking you all for the wait, it will be worth it," to be exact. But what exactly does 'soon' mean? We do know that production is moving forward but there are yet to be any shots from on set, and given how Insta-happy director Anthony Byrne can be, we'd probably know about it if and when it had happened.
There might be more clues to be had in the three emojis Anderson dropped after the main caption: the hundred symbol, the praying hands, and the panda. Maybe the hundred is to project some sense of confidence in the quality of the new series. The praying hands might be about the hopes for actually getting to the end of shooting without having to shelve everything again. The panda, fairy clearly, signals Arthur's character arc over season six: he'll be cuddly, possibly a little harder to find, and, despite concerted efforts, frustratingly impotent.
Well, look, we don't have a lot to go on. But it's coming! And it's coming fkn soon!!
But maybe not that fkn soon. Don't get your hopes up for any Peaky Blinders for many, many months
But might that actually be a good thing, in the end? We think it might be, actually. Read a bit more about that here.
Director Anthony Byrne is particularly excited about a sequence which will open the new season.
"Steve hasn't written anything like that in previous seasons or any of his other works, so that's a sequence we're really excited about filming," Byrne told the Sun. "It took us a long time to find the location and to put it together."
"I checked my emails and I'd just got season six episode one from Steve and I was like 'Shit, do you want to know what happens?' Because I didn't know, you have to cut what you have. Paul was laid out on the couch and I ended up reading it out loud."
What's going to happen in season six?
Despite how far off the next season is, we do know some plot details. We know, for instance, that Tommy will come up against a new fascist foe. Having failed to bump off Mosley with his – let's be honest – pretty hare-brained scheme involving a psychologically unstable and cocaine-addled sharpshooter, director Anthony Byrne says that a new female character will double Tommy's fascism-fighting burden.
"There's a great female character who is new, who is pretty dark," Byrne told Digital Spy. "I haven't seen a character like her in Peaky before. I won't say who she is, but she certainly gives Tommy a run for his money. She challenges him in a different way basically. She's certainly not a protagonist and I don't know if she's an antagonist.
"It's similar to [Oswald] Mosley… she has a similar ideology, and that's challenging for any character, like I've said before… he or she, they don't have guns or a gang, but they have an ideology that's like a virus and it's more dangerous than anything. She's a great character and we're really close to casting her, as well."
That particular female character might be the one being played by Amber Anderson, as Byrne announced on his Instagram in February 2021.
Some have speculated that she'll turn out to be Mosley's second wife Diana Guinness (née Mitford), and that we'll see them get married. They tied the knot in October 1936 in Berlin, at the home of Josef Goebbels. The guest of honour that day was Adolf Hitler.
We also know it's going to pick up where that season five cliffhanger left off. Byrne has said that the final frame of season five, which saw Tommy screaming and putting a gun to his head in a misty field, will be the frame that we're greeted with in the first episode of season six.
"Yeah, it picks up directly [from season five], the very first image you will see will be back in that field, with Tommy with a gun to his head and then we will move on from there and resolve that amazing moment," Byrne said.
Some fans had been concerned that Tommy had shot himself, but all this does point to him being very much alive. Which, you know, was sort of the only option. You can't just get rid of him.
Steven Knight likes to leave a trail of crumbs behind him ahead of each season, and he's started early with the drip-feeding of season six clues.
Speaking at the National Television Awards – where Peaky Blinders picked up the Best Drama Series award, and Cillian Murphy won Best Drama Performance – Knight said that the threat of war will colour everything that happens in season six.
After his usual line about season six being "the best yet," Knight said that this will be the point that World War Two starts to loom large on the horizon.
"It's moving the story forward. We always jump in time so we are into the Thirties. Expect the unexpected. Because of the nature of the decade, the Thirties, we know what happened at the end – that war began.
"There are rumblings and rumours of war and that is overshadowing the whole thing. It makes it all the more... the stakes are higher."
He's gone into what exactly that means for the series before now too.
"[Season six] is about the rise of fascism, nationalism and racism in the Thirties – and there are huge parallels with what's happening in the world now," Knight told the NME. "I wanted to make that a major theme of series five and the next series, because we go on into the Thirties."
If you know your history, you'll be aware that the Battle of Cable Street is on the horizon, too. In 1936, the British Union of Fascists tried to march through the East End of London, an area specifically chosen because it was home to a large Jewish community. Communists and anti-fascists blocked them, though, and after fighting in the street the fascists were beaten. What are the odds that the Shelby gang will be where the violence is?
"In series six, we'll be looking at 1934 and things are worse," Knight went on. "The drum beat is getting louder, tensions are worse and Tommy is right in the middle of all that. Again, it will be an exploration of what was going on in the Thirties and how certain things transpired. I’m writing it at the moment, and it is a tragedy."
Byrne told the Obsessed With Peaky Blinders podcast that Gina and Oswald Mosley will play a major part in the storyline too.
"Gina, and whoever her family are, will make themselves known," revealed Byrne. He also said there would be more focus on "Oswald Mosley and some people around him and his world."
What other plot pointers have there been?
Shots from the set of season six in February have shown Michael Gray, the character many people suspect of betraying Tommy Shelby, wearing a (SPOILER ALERT) prison suit (and a dashing moustache). The Scottish Sun peeked in on the scene at Portsoy Harbour in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which had been turned into a prison for the purpose of the show. The paper watched as Michael argued with Tommy, who was dressed in his usual overcoat and baker boy cap garb, while two guards stood nearby. Michael gets handed a note, which he reportedly appears upset by, triggering him to lunge at his family rival before being restrained by his keepers. Then he points and shouts at the Shelby kingpin while being dragged away back into the prison. Tommy has seemingly had his revenge, but Michael surely won’t go down without a fight.
On 26 January 2020 we got our first episode title, thanks to Byrne. He took to Instagram to say that season six was in pre-production and will open with 'Black Day'. Considering every day in the Peaky universe falls somewhere between 'black' and 'very, very dark grey' on the Dulux colour chart, that isn't quite as revealing as you'd hope – but we've collected our best guesses as to what it's all about here.
Byrne is the first Peaky Blinders director to return for a second shift on the show. He oversaw season five, which itself opened with the episode 'Black Tuesday' (which was closely followed by 'Black Cats').
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He posted on Instagram that the back bar of the Garrison Pub will be undergoing some minor renovations ahead of the next season.
"I didn’t want to change the front bar too much for story reasons that I can’t go in to, but I wanted to change the back bar and in discussions with Nicole Northridge, our amazing Production Designer who I worked with on S5, we wanted to make it very dark and use black and gold in the colour scheme.
"Black and Gold are two colours that run thematically through S6 and I wanted to layer them anywhere I could that made sense to the locations or the characters who would be in those locations. As to the significance and themes that black and gold represent, well… you’ll just have to wait and see. But I was really happy with the way the set looked at this point and we spent a lot of time on the wallpaper, the embossed filigree and getting the right tone of the gold and the black."
What does he mean? No idea. Maybe Sam Sparro's in for a cameo. We do know that things might get a lot more supernatural, though. Ghosts and characters returning from the grave are very much par for the course in the Peaky-verse, and Steven Knight has said that you can expect a fair bit more wibbly-woo from the sixth season.
"I like the supernatural element," Knight told the official Peaky Blinders website. "Is Tommy cursed? In other words, is everything predestined, are lives already mapped out? Do you have free will or not?
"Tommy sometimes feels that he doesn't because it seems that everything is destined to stop him or move him in a particular direction. It's the same with the whole family.
"I explore that more in the next series."
On 3 March 2021, the team behind Peaky Blinders revealed that Conrad Khan, the 21-year-old London-born actor who earned acclaim for his role in the British drug drama County Lines, had been cast in the upcoming season.
The news comes fresh off his nomination for the Bafta EE Rising Star award, which is voted for by the public in the run-up to awards night on 11 April. He’s up against Kingsley Ben-Adir (One Night in Miami), Bukky Bakray (Rocks), Ṣọpé Dìrísù (His House) and Morfydd Clark (Saint Maud).
The creators announced his casting through the official Peaky Blinders Twitter account, saying: “We’re delighted to welcome @BAFTA #EERisingStar nominee Conrad Khan to the cast of #PeakyBlinders series six.”
Who he’ll play, we do not know. Honestly: not a scooby. The tweet was accompanied by a on-set photograph from director Anthony Byrne, but it doesn’t provide much in the way of clues. We can say for certain that he doesn’t have a Peaky Blinders undercut, but how do we know that a masked-up barber wasn’t standing on the side lines, ready to leap in a give him a shearing? He’s wearing an overcoat and a… cravat? What does it all mean?!
As we say, no idea – but he’s a welcome addition to the cast. His performance in Henry Blake’s 2020 film Country Lines, in which he played a 14-year-old boy who befriends a drug courier, is brilliant, and you can watch it here. Speaking to Harpers Bazaar recently, he opened up about how much the role changed his life. "The response that the film has got was better than anything I'd ever imagined. It was such an important learning experience for me, really taking me places and giving me opportunities I'd never have dreamt of." (He also revealed that he once harboured dreams of owning a sweet shop, so there’s that too).
— Peaky Blinders (@ThePeakyBlinder) March 19, 2021
It has also been announced that James Frecheville, the 29-year-old Australian actor who starred in the film Animal Kingdom, has been added to the cast. We even got a picture from the set of him looking like a suave business guy, drink in hand, seemingly up to no good. That being said, we have absolutely no indication yet of who he’ll play.
Meanwhile, Irish actress Charlie Murphy has revealed that she won't be returning as the real-life trade union leader Jessie Eden. "'Yeah. I'm done now," she told Digital Spy. "But it was a lot of fun when we shot it. And that feels like an age ago as well. Which it was. It was about three years ago."
Discussing what could have happened to her character moving forward, she said: "I just think she was an incredible woman, and she's a bit of a spy. There's so much. I mean, you could make a TV series about her for sure."
Will anyone else come back from the grave?
Very few main players in the Peaky-verse stay properly dead for very long, especially if they're played by Tom Hardy.
New set photos revealed in late January 2021 that Linda Shelby, who you'll recall was shot by Aunt Polly at the end of the last season, is back in the picture and will feature in spite of that attack. Admittedly, she wasn't dead, but she did bounce back remarkably well from being gunned down at that party. She's made of stern stuff, clearly.
Steven Knight revealed a few more characters he felt he'd been rash in killing off during our watchalong of the final episode of season five with him too. Incidentally, if you've not watched along with our Steven Knight watchalong yet, it's definitely worth your time.
Over the course of the watchalong, Knight mentioned a few characters he wishes he hadn't killed off, and it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that they might just make a comeback in some form or another. Aiden Gillen's Aberama Gold was one.
"I should have kept [Aberama] alive, I could have just wounded him," Knight mourned. He wasn't the only regret, though.
"There’s him playing Barney Thompson [Cosmo Jarvis] who’s just brilliant, and I really wish I’d kept him alive now because he’s such a good actor."
Another – who's very definitely dead and won't be jumping out of the grave any time soon – was Major Campbell, played by Sam Neill.
"I thought we'd got to the end of that duel between Tommy and Campbell and I was writing episode six of that series and I thought ‘I can’t just send the script to Sam Neill'.
"So, I phoned him up explained and he just said, 'I don't want to die', so I said 'OK, I'll think about it' and did think about it and then a week later said 'I think we’ve got to do this' and he was fantastic about it.
"But it’s a funny position where you create these people and then you have to kill them and it’s not nice."
It takes a heart of stone to hear Sam Neill say, "I don't want to die," and shrug your shoulders before pulling the metaphorical lever to send him through the metaphorical hangman's trapdoor. Who'll care for his ducks?
Meanwhile, Jack Rowan has opened up about his exit from the show in season five. He played Bonnie Gold, Aberama Gold's boxer son, who was shot to death by Jimmy McCavern, leader of the Glaswegian Billy Boys.
"No [I didn't know Bonnie was going to die at first]," he said. "When I got the part, it was very much sort of see how it goes, as in see if the character is received quite nicely. There were aspirations to continue the character, but you know how it is.
"I did another job and that led to me not being able to continue on Bonnie.
"But the producers and the team are so nice. They gave him a very dignified end, and at least he wasn't just never seen again or recast. At least he had an ending."
He’s proud of the one he got, too. "He's a tough gypsy lad and that last moment, when he actually gets shot, the character that shoots him says, 'Farewell, fighter boy. You died well.' And that's true. He did die well.
"And he dies honourably. He didn't die scared, didn't die backing away. He died facing up to and looking in the eyes of the person who shoots him, so I was happy with it, and it was my first death, so I'll never forget it."
What other big questions need to be settled?
Aside from Mosley, we don't know who or what the 'black cat' of Tommy's dreams is – he reckons it means there's a traitor in the midst of the Shelby clan, and most fans reckon it's either would-be leader of the Shelby company, Michael, or his wife Gina Gray. Plus, it'd be a bit gutting if the Glasgow gang the Billy Boys just disappeared. Do they know where Tommy's dead horse is? Is that even important anymore?
Which guest stars can we expect?
The biggest new addition to the cast is Stephen Graham, who's been one of our best actors for absolutely ages now, though we don't know who he's playing as yet. And really, he could do anything. He has, as Twitter likes to say, The Range. Graham's been spotted filming at the Bramley Moore Dock in Liverpool wearing the standard-issue Peaky garb, which doesn't really give much away about his character. You can catch up with the rest of the new cast members in our full run-down over here.
Fans expected guests in season five and they were notably absent. However, Knight told the Guardian that the policy of keeping celebs at arm's length could change in season six.
"We get a lot of people who get in touch and want to take part," he said. "There’s Brad Pitt. Snoop Dogg. A$AP Rocky, too. I think in series six we will open the door a little to get some celebrity actors in. The main thing is they have to be good."
Most recently we've had Imelda Staunton, who'll be playing the Queen in the final season of The Crown, declaring herself as a huge fan of the show. But will she try to get on the show?
"Oh, do you know, don’t think I didn’t bloody try!" Staunton told the Daily Express. "Peaky Blinder! I want to be a Peaky bloody Blinder! I’d be so mean. I’d be so mean. I’ve got the Irish[ness]. I’ve got the meanness."
But will she turn up? Probably not. "I think it’s all been and gone now," she said.
Where are they shooting?
This time around, it's almost all going to be in Birmingham. As explained above, past seasons have used a lot of stand-ins for interwar Brum and London, chiefly around Leeds and West Yorkshire, Manchester, Bolton, the Wirral and Liverpool – including Admiral Grove, the street where a young Ringo Starr grew up – but season six will shift toward the city itself and the West Midlands.
At least some of the new season will take place in Manchester though, according to the Manchester Evening News, with Space Studios serving as the main hub. In February 2021 sets started going up around the Castlefields area, including a work station for builders underneath a railway bridge and signs for Bingley Hall – an exhibition centre later used by a railway company to build tunnels under Birmingham – and for Birmingham Snow Hill railway station's goods office. Clues, perhaps.
In the same month, shooting wrapped up in Portsoy, Aberdeenshire. The town's harbourside and a fishing boat were the focus of filming, though weather conditions meant that the production had to hit up a local cobbler to sort the cast out with non-slip coating for the bottom of their period shoes to prevent any accidental journeys into the Moray Firth.
"Cheekily, I asked the costume department if we would be in the credits and I was told no," said cobbler Kenny Morran. Seems a bit harsh. The weather trapped some of the production team "along with a shivering canary" up in nearby Huntly too.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Sun reported that while shooting Cillian Murphy "used sausages to bribe dog," which is quite the headline. He was apparently keeping a canine co-star onside with portions of the famous minced meat cylinders.
When is Peaky Blinders season six out?
Filming was halted in March 2020 by that bloody pandemic, but started again in January 2021. Director Anthony Byrne anticipates it being early 2022 before Peaky Blinders returns to screens.
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