Some characters in the superb fiction starring Cillian Murphy are inspired by real people, including, of course, Tommy Shelby himself. Here are their portraits.
Warning, spoilers. The following article reveals key plot elements of Peaky Blinders.
The story that Steven Knight told us throughout the six seasons of Peaky Blinders, which are already available in full on Netflix, and whose ending will be told as a movie on the big screen, is fictional. But as fans of British fiction know, some characters are based on real people.
Some of them, like Winston Churchill or Charlie Chaplin are absolutely obvious, but what some viewers may not know is that there are other characters inspired by real life and, among them, figures just as charismatic as the one embodied by Tom Hardy.
The band led by Tommy Shelby is also inspired by a real gang. Steven Knight indeed developed his idea for Peaky Blinders from the stories his parents, who grew up in the south-east area of Birmingham, told him as a child: “My parents had ties to illegal bookmakers, like a lot of people back then”, he admitted in an interview. From there, the creator got down to building his story by mixing “family legends and historical facts”.
“It is fiction woven in a real setting, of great dramatic and cinematic beauty, but which, for very English reasons, has been relegated to the history books” – Steven Knight
Throughout the series appear characters whose real lives have been documented, but for some there are not enough quality images to get an idea of their faces. For others, fortunately, it is the opposite case, as you can see in the following portraits.
Interpreted by : Charlie Creed – Miles
One of Tommy’s first enemies on the show, when the Peaky Blinders got into rigging horse races, was Billy Kimber. The latter really existed and was the head of a gang known as the “Birmingham Boys” which was famous in the north of England in the 1910s and 1930s for their control of several racecourses. The real Kimber died of an illness in 1942 and not of a shot fired by the leader of his rival gang as is the case in the fiction.
Iperformed by: Sam Claflin
In season 5, Peaky Blinders introduced Sir Oswald Mosley, an MP who wanted Tommy’s help to start a new party in Britain but ended up becoming one of his biggest enemies. In real life, Mosley was an equally controversial British politician who, disillusioned with traditional partisan politics, became the founder and leader of a far-right party known as the British Union of Fascists (BUF), as well as a major support figure for Hitler in Britain.
Performed by: Charlie Murphy
Jessie Eden was a recurring character in the 4th and 5th seasons of Peaky Blinders. A communist and union coordinator in the midst of a fight for equal pay for women, she appeared in Tommy’s life when she threatened to call a strike in one of his factories. The character of Jessie Eden is inspired by the real-life British campaigner and labor leader of the same name, who rose to fame for leading the 1939 Birmingham rent strike, among other protests over the years, and who entered the History as a strong advocate for women and social justice.
Interpreted by : Andrew Koji
Billy “Brilliant” Chang plays a pivotal role in Season 5 of Peaky Blinders as the leader of the Triad and supplier of opium to Tommy Shelby. The real Chang was a charismatic immigrant who ran a Cantonese restaurant in Birmingham before turning to the drug trade and inheriting the nickname “Drug King” from the press.
Interpreted by : Donald Sumpter
In Peaky Blinders, 1st Baron Stamfordham, acting as the king’s private secretary, pulls some strings to allow Tommy to become the Labor MP for the South Birmingham constituency and thus make him a government insider. In real life, he was an officer in the British army and private secretary to Queen Victoria for the last years of her reign, as well as to George V for most of the latter’s rule.
Interpreted by : Tom Hardy
Alfie Solomons first appeared in Season 2 of Peaky Blinders as a rather untrustworthy Jewish gang leader, owner of an illegal distillery, and business partner of Tommy Shelby in Camden Town. Far from being the protagonist’s right-hand man, the character of Hardy was nevertheless very popular with fans of the series and his return after being left for dead was much applauded at the time. In real life, the real Solomon – without an ‘s’ like his fictional version – was also part of a gang, that of the Italian mobsters Sabini, which operated in the world of racing and gambling. He is known to have been arrested multiple times for various acts of gun violence, including shooting Billy Kimber himself. He will eventually become a police informant.
Interpreted by : Neil Maskell (season 5)
Neil Maskell played the famous politician in the 5th season of the series while he is a high ranking member of the government. Secretary of State for the Colonies, Churchill works with Tommy Shelby, tasking him with carrying out assassinations for the government while granting him export licenses. Two other actors have previously lent their features to the future British Prime Minister: Andy Nyman (season 1) and Richard McCabe (season 2).