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The Irish actor, 44, has starred onscreen as a Thomas Shelby since 2013 and a new installment of the BBC show is due to be released early next year. The period crime drama follows the criminal’s journey from racecourse racketeer to being embedded within the Government. In a candid reflection of the role, Cillian revealed there were many “contradictions” of the character.
Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight described Shelby as “a good man, who does bad things to a bad end” – a quote that resonated with the TV lead.
Cillian felt that each season of the show was “very, very slowly… peeling back layers” to unmask “what Tommy was like pre-World War 1”.
He believed that Mr Knight intended to “ultimately redeem” the character – who at the end of season five was embroiled in a failed assassination plot to kill the fascist Oswald Mosley.
Cillian explained: “He’s a contradiction as we all are, you know, as human beings.
“Now he’s a politician, he’s an MP, how do you reconcile that with being a gangster? How do you recognise being a father with being a gangster… [or] a husband?
“How do you deal with an ideology, a fascist ideology, something that you can’t use machine guns against – so all of that stuff, it’s just very rich.”
Cillian felt the show was so compelling because viewers were given insight into the mentality of “men stumbling through life, suffering the aftermath of World War 1”.
He told the Happy Sad Confused podcast last year: “You know, ejected from the most mechanised, most horrific bloodshed ever known to man, at that point.
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“Then they’re trying to… adjust to society and find a place for themselves and each of them… are dealing with that in a different way.”
Cillian previously concluded that Thomas Shelby was “inevitably classed as an antihero” during an interview on AOL’s Build Series last year.
He explained: “To me it sums up the contradiction of the character because there are so many things about him that you could isolate and admire.
“Then there are many, many, many things that you’d be horrified by… to try to play that contradiction is brilliant because ultimately drama is contradiction.”
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When asked about his character’s “moral code”, Cillian claimed that viewers were “gradually beginning to see” what he was like before fighting in the trenches.
The star said: “He was so traumatised and devastated by his experiences in France.
“We’re beginning to see some of those values and things that were important to him seeing them – they were dormant for a long time and now are coming back to life.”
Earlier this month, fans of the show were teased by Peaky Blinders star Paul Anderson, who plays Thomas Shelby’s troubled brother Arthur.
On Instagram, he wrote: “Season 6 #comingfknsoon… Thanking you all for the wait, it will be worth it.”
Mr Knight, the show’s creator, revealed that the new season was “a tragedy” and would have a “supernatural element”, during an interview with NME.
He said: “‘Is Tommy cursed?’ In other words – is everything predestined? Are lives already mapped out? Do you have free will or not?”
Peaky Blinders seasons one to five are available to stream on Netflix.
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