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Why The Cast Of Peaky Blinders Looks So Familiar

Created by "Eastern Promises” scribe Steven Knight, "Peaky Blinders" transports viewers to the gritty slums of post-war Birmingham, where the streets are dominated by criminal gangs. The most feared and respected of them all is the one run by the tight-knit Shelby family, which is led by a fearless leader whose big ambitions might bring about their salvation ... or their downfall.

"Peaky Blinders" has earned widespread acclaim, thanks to its sweeping storytelling, captivating cinematography, and, perhaps most of all, its top-notch cast. This talented slate of actors has been delivering iconic performances that elevate the gangster genre since the show debuted in 2013. But these performers have careers that extend far beyond Birmingham's borders. They've played space travelers, musicians, soldiers, and romantics in a wide variety of settings, eras, and genres. You might even recognize them from some of these roles — or, as is the case with some of the most prolific, a whole lot of these roles. Why do these "Peaky Blinders" actors look so familiar? We're here to find out by taking a look at their most prominent roles.

Cillian Murphy

Portraying Thomas "Tommy" Shelby, leader of the notorious Peaky Blinders, is the formidable Cillian Murphy. Despite Tommy's cold and no-nonsense demeanor, viewers are still able to connect with him, thanks to Murphy's magnetic presence. This skill has served him well for years: Before "Peaky Blinders" cemented Murphy's status as a TV legend, he was already a movie star, with leading roles in films like "28 Days Later," "Red Eye," and the boundary-busting comedy-drama "Breakfast on Pluto." The latter film gave him his first Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a musical or comedy.

Murphy has also received international recognition for his work with Oscar-winning filmmaker Christopher Nolan. Their long-running collaboration began with "The Dark Knight" trilogy: Murphy plays the role of DC villain Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka Scarecrow, in "Batman Begins." Interestingly, Murphy was actually brought in to do a screen test for the role of Batman, but as he told The Boston Globe, he never believed he was right for the Dark Knight. Luckily for fans everywhere, this meeting led to his performance as the film's antagonist. Following this film, Murphy continued to appear in Nolan's projects, enjoying roles in "Inception," "Dunkirk," and "Oppenheimer," in which Murphy plays the titular scientist.

Paul Anderson

Paul Anderson portrays the unpredictable Arthur Shelby, who, along with his brother John, takes care of most of the family business' dirty work.  Arthur is a broken character who's just trying to find peace, but his loyalty to Tommy keeps him from truly escaping his violent world.

Though "Peaky Blinders" is Anderson's biggest project to date, audiences have seen him before in a variety of productions. He's appeared on TV shows like "Silent Witness," "Lewis, "Midsomer Murders," "Top Boy," "The Great Train Robbery," and in a "Doctor Who" Christmas special. He has also graced the big screen with supporting roles in action films like "A Lonely Place to Die," "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," and "The Sweeney." After making his mark on the entertainment world as Arthur Shelby, he's gotten the chance to appear in far more features from acclaimed filmmakers, including Brian Helgeland's "Legend," Ron Howard's "In the Heart of the Sea," Alejandro G. Iñárritu's "The Revenant," and Guillermo del Toro's "Nightmare Alley."

Helen McCrory

The Peaky Blinders aren't just led by Tommy Shelby. Family matriarch Polly Gray — better known to fans as Aunt Polly — serves as an integral part of the operation, and a reliable figure of guidance. This fan-favorite character is portrayed by the late Helen McCrory, whose commanding performance is a highlight of the show. Unfortunately, McCrory wasn't able to stick with the series to its end: Per Reuters, she died of breast cancer in 2021, at the age of 52. "Peaky Blinders" paid an emotional tribute to McCrory and her character by dedicating Episode 1 of Season 6, "Black Day," to her.

On top of being an established stage actress and television star, McCrory also enjoyed roles in a number of notable films, including "Interview with the Vampire," "The Count of Monte Cristo," "The Queen," "Becoming Jane," "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Hugo," "Skyfall," and "Loving Vincent." Aside from her acclaimed "Peaky Blinders" performance, her most well-known role is likely Narcissa Malfoy, mother to Tom Felton's Draco Malfoy, in the last three "Harry Potter" films. As Helena Bonham Carter revealed to Entertainment Weekly, McCrory was originally cast as Bellatrix Lestrange, Narcissa's sister, in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," but had to exit the project due to her pregnancy.

Joe Cole

When "Peaky Blinders" debuted, Joe Cole had yet to make a major mark on the industry, though he had appeared on shows like "Holby City," "Injustice," and "Skins." Due to his breakout performance as John Shelby, Tommy's reliable brother, Cole has become one of the United Kingdom's most exciting young actors, nabbing supporting roles in films like the dark comedy "A Long Way Down," the Florence Pugh-led drama "The Falling," the war drama "Thank You For Your Service," and thrillers including "Green Room," "Secret in Their Eyes," and "Woodshock."

John Shelby's untimely death in Season 4 took fans by surprise, but it's also allowed Cole to explore new projects on the small screen. After his exit, he's continued his television career with leading roles in the "Hang the DJ" episode of "Black Mirror" and "Gangs of London." Moreover, he's started racking up awards: Cole won best actor at the British Independent Film Awards for his portrayal of Billy Moore in the 2018 film "A Prayer Before Dawn." More recently, he starred in the spy thriller series "The Ipcress File" and the survival film "Against the Ice."

Sophie Rundle

Sophie Rundle plays the role of Ada Thorne, Tommy's rebellious sister. Ada isn't afraid to speak up and say what's on her mind, even if she's expressing contempt for her family's criminal activities. As the seasons progress, Ada matures into an intelligent and tough woman who Tommy heavily relies upon.

Rundle kicked off her career in 2007 by starring opposite Warwick Davis in the British horror-comedy "Small Town Folk." She then ventured into television and snagged roles on the 2012 "Titanic" miniseries, the fantasy-drama "Merlin," the mystery-drama "The Bletchley Circle," and the two-part crime drama "Talking to the Dead." After joining "Peaky Blinders," Rundle secured leading roles on a number of acclaimed dramas, including the TV film "An Inspector Calls," the period drama "Jamestown," HBO's historical drama "Gentleman Jack," and the thriller-drama "Bodyguard." As for her film career, Rundle has only appeared in a handful of projects, including the psychological thriller "The Face of an Angel" and the George Clooney-helmed sci-fi film "The Midnight Sky."

Annabelle Wallis

On the first three seasons of "Peaky Blinders," Annabelle Wallis plays Grace Burgess, a government spy who captures the heart of the intimidating Tommy Shelby. As she revealed in an interview with FT, playing a tough woman like Grace expanded her professional horizons. This has led her to  starring roles in high-profile projects like "The Mummy" reboot featuring Tom Cruise, the ensemble comedy "Tag," the action-thriller "The Silencing," and horror films including "Malignant" and "Annabelle."

Before finding success in "Peaky Blinders," Wallis popped up on a variety of television projects. Viewers are particularly likely to recognize her from the historical period drama "The Tudors," in which she plays Jane Seymour, one of King Henry VIII's infamous wives. While she had small parts in all-star films such as Ridley Scott's thriller "Body of Lies," Madonna's romantic drama "W.E.," and Matthew Vaughn's superhero prequel "X-Men: First Class," Wallis actually started her cinematic career with the romantic Bollywood film "Dil Jo Bhi Kahey," in which she plays Sophie Besson. Wallis has also landed roles on American shows including "Pan Am," "Star Trek: Short Treks," "The Loudest Voice," and "Star Trek: Discovery."

Finn Cole

Finn Cole plays Michael Gray on "Peaky Blinders," who is introduced in Season 2 as Polly's long-lost son. Initially a naïve young man thrust into a dark new world, Michael evolves into a more cunning character — thanks in large part to the mentorship he gets from Tommy, who sees himself in Michael. Prior to joining "Peaky Blinders," Finn Cole made his film debut as an extra in the 2012 action film "Offender." Notably, this film stars his older brother Joe Cole, who plays John Shelby in the series. This extremely minor part was, incredibly enough, the only credit Cole had to his name when he landed the role of Michael Gray. 

Following this breakout performance, Cole has found success on the large and small screens. Perhaps most prominently, he stars as Joshua "J" Cody on the TNT drama "Animal Kingdom." As for his film career, he's appeared in a handful of projects that have put him in close contact with major stars, including the horror-comedy "Slaughterhouse Rulez" with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the thriller-drama "Dreamland" opposite Margot Robbie, and the blockbuster hit "F9," where he portrays a younger version of John Cena's Jakob Toretto.

Natasha O'Keeffe

Natasha O'Keeffe portrays Lizzie Stark, one of a few characters on "Peaky Blinders" who undergoes significant changes over the course of the series. She starts out as a sex worker, gets hired as a secretary, and eventually becomes Mrs. Thomas Shelby. This long and winding path transforms Lizzie into a strong and fierce character. Despite Tommy's faults, Lizzie remains a constant figure of support in his life.

Before joining "Peaky Blinders," O'Keeffe was already a familiar face on U.K. television. She got her big break when she was cast in the main role of Sadie Anderson on the serial drama "Lip Service." After that series ended, she starred as Abbey Smith on "Misfits," a sci-fi series about young offenders who suddenly gain superpowers while doing community service. Following the success of "Peaky Blinders," she has appeared on a huge variety of TV shows, including "The Last Panthers," "Jekyll and Hyde," "Sherlock," "Strike," "Rebellion," and "Intergalactic." Given the fact that these productions range from historical drama to sci-fi action, O'Keeffe's career is likely to get even more interesting in the years ahead.

Anya Taylor-Joy

Portraying the manipulative and ambitious Gina Gray is Anya Taylor-Joy, who has become one of Hollywood's most sought-after stars. Even before joining the ensemble cast of "Peaky Blinders," Taylor-Joy had enjoyed major parts in high-profile films including M. Night Shyamalan's thrillers "Split" and "Glass," as well as the black comedy thriller "Thoroughbreds." She gained especially major recognition for her performance as Thomasin in Robert Eggers' acclaimed folk horror film "The Witch." This debut earned her widespread acclaim, including the Gotham Award for breakthrough actor and the Empire Award for best female newcomer.

Taylor-Joy's career has continued to flourish since she took on the role of Gina. She began 2020 with her critically acclaimed performance as the titular heroine in "Emma," a new adaptation of the Jane Austen classic. She followed that up with the Netflix miniseries "The Queen's Gambit." For her lead performance as Beth Harmon, a troubled chess prodigy, she won her first Golden Globe Award. More recently, she starred in Edgar Wright's "Last Night in Soho," in which she plays 1960s actress Sandie. She's currently attached to a number of highly-anticipated films, including Eggers' revenge epic "The Northman," David O. Russell's period film "Canterbury Glass," and Mark Mylod's black comedy "The Menu."

Tom Hardy

Alfie Solomons, Tommy's frenemy and leader of a London-based Jewish gang, is played by mega-star Tom Hardy. Hardy effortlessly balances Alfie's eccentric charm, dark humor, violent outbursts, and daunting presence. He enjoys especially impressive chemistry with Cillian Murphy, which has made the character a fan favorite.

Hardy has a lot of memorable performances under his belt. While he began acting in the early 2000s, he gained international recognition through his work with Oscar-winner Christopher Nolan, who cast Hardy as Eames in the 2010 sci-fi action film "Inception." Hardy and Nolan followed this up with "The Dark Knight Rises," which sees Hardy take on mantle of DC supervillain Bane. In the ensuring years, Hardy has cemented his A-list status with roles in films like "Warrior," "Dunkirk," and the "Venom" movies. He earned especially wide acclaim for his performance as Max Rockatansky in George Miller's post-apocalyptic "Mad Max: Fury Road," and snagged his first Oscar nomination for his role in the Leonardo DiCaprio-led survival epic, "The Revenant."

Sam Neill

Sam Neill plays the unrelenting Chester Campbell, one of the first antagonists of "Peaky Blinders." In Season 1, he is tasked by Winston Churchill with recovering some missing guns. However, as he and Tommy clash, his retrieval mission turns into a plot to take down the Shelby family.

Neill has been a successful actor for decades. Audiences might recognize him from any number of acclaimed performances, dating back to the 1970s. He's appeared on TV shows like "Reilly, Ace of Spies," "Merlin," "The Tudors," "Alcatraz," and "Invasion," to name just a handful of his credits. His filmography is even more impressive, encompassing features including "Sleeping Dogs," "My Brilliant Career," "The Hunt for Red October," "The Piano," and "Hunt for the Wilderpeople." Neill's most iconic role is likely Dr. Alan Grant, the brilliant paleontologist of Steven Spielberg's smash-hit "Jurassic Park" films. Marvel fans might also recognize him from a small but very amusing part in "Thor: Ragnarok": He plays the actor who plays Odin in an Asgardian play.

Aidan Gillen

Aidan Gillen is no stranger to television. He famously stars as Lord Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger, on "Game of Thrones," and as Tommy Carcetti on "The Wire."  Following his departure from the former fantasy series, Gillen traded Westeros for the Birmingham of "Peaky Blinders," where he plays Aberama Gold. Aberama has a ruthless reputation for his savage killings, which puts him right in line with Gillen's prior roles.

Gillen's performance as Stuart Alan Jones on the acclaimed British drama "Queer as Folk" proved to be his big break, netting him a BAFTA nomination for best actor. He went on to enjoy roles in projects like the "Maze Runner" movies, "The Dark Knight Rises," "Bohemian Rhapsody," and "Those Who Wish Me Dead. More recently, Gillen has starred as Frank Kinsella on "Kin,” and as Milo Sunter on "Mayor of Kingstown." Interestingly, both of these series are crime sagas, and both see Gillen work alongside Marvel Cinematic Universe stars — Charlie Cox and Jeremy Renner, respectively.

Sam Claflin

In Season 5, "Peaky Blinders" viewers are introduced to Sam Claflin's Oswald Mosley. Based on the real-life British politician of the same name, Mosley is a fascist leader Tommy meets as a Member of Parliament. As a former soldier, Tommy recognizes the grave threat Mosley's ideals pose to the world.

Claflin's career started in television, though he's better known as a movie star nowadays: His first role was a supporting part in the star-studded miniseries "The Pillars of the Earth." Soon after, he was cast as Philip Swift in the action-fantasy film "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." Claflin added another blockbuster franchise to his body of work when he landed the role of Finnick Odair in the "Hunger Games" films. Audiences might also recognize him from his performances in "Me Before You," which sees him play romantic lead Will Traynor, "Enola Holmes," in which he steps into Mycroft Holmes' shoes, and "My Cousin Rachel," which puts him in the middle of a classic romantic mystery. Claflin is set to star as Billy Dunne on "Daisy Jones & The Six," an Amazon Prime miniseries chronicling the rise and fall of a '70s rock band.

Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody dazzles as Luca Changretta, the Italian-American gangster out for revenge against the Shelby family. Brody was already familiar to many "Peaky Blinders" viewers, however, as he's a bonafide movie star. His most notable role is Holocaust survivor Władysław Szpilman in "The Pianist," which netted him the Academy Award for best actor. To prepare for this searing performance, Brody lost weight, gave up his car and apartment, and dedicated himself to the piano.

Brody is also known for his frequent collaborations with acclaimed filmmaker Wes Anderson: He plays Peter Whitman in "The Darjeeling Limited," Rickity in "Fantastic Mr. Fox," Dmitri in "The Grand Budapest Hotel," and Julien Cadazio in "The French Dispatch." Apart from "Peaky Blinders," Brody has also starred on TV shows like the two-part miniseries "Houdini," the horror drama "Chapelwaite," and was recently a guest star on the award-winning HBO drama "Succession."

Paddy Considine

Paddy Considine plays Father John Hughes, the main antagonist of Season 3 of "Peaky Blinders." Despite presenting himself as a man of God, Hughes is an especially vile enemy: His mind games and connection with a far-right secret organization make him more dangerous than any gangster who's previously moved against the Shelby family.

Considine is a two-time BAFTA winner who audiences might recognize for his roles in early 2000s films like "Last Resort," "In America," "My Summer of Love," and "Cinderella Man." Notably, he stars in "Dead Man's Shoes," which he co-wrote with frequent collaborator Shane Meadows. Fans of Edgar Wright's Cornetto trilogy might also find him familiar, as he portrays Andy Wainwright in the buddy cop comedy "Hot Fuzz" and Steven Prince in the sci-fi comedy "The World's End."

Before landing his role on "Peaky Blinders," Considine starred in four installments of the British TV film series "The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher." He went on to star in more limited series, including HBO's "The Outsider" and "The Third Day." Considine is set to star in the "Game of Thrones" prequel series "House of the Dragon" as King Viserys I Targaryen.

Noah Taylor

Season 2 introduces viewers to Noah Taylor's Darby Sabini, yet another "Peaky Blinders" character based on a real-life person. A British-Italian mob boss, he dominates the London racetracks. Prior to joining the series, Taylor had a recurring role as Locke on the wildly popular "Game of Thrones." Later on, he was cast as Adolf Hitler on the offbeat supernatural series "Preacher." How's that for range?

In addition to his television career, Taylor has also had supporting roles in films like the classic comedy-drama "Almost Famous," the sci-fi thriller "Vanilla Sky," the romantic drama "The Sleeping Dictionary," the Angelina Jolie-led "Tomb Raider" films, the sci-fi actioner "Edge of Tomorrow," and the cult dramedy "He Died with a Felafel in His Hand." Millennial viewers in particular might also remember Taylor for what is, arguably, his most recognizable role: Mr. Bucket, father to Charlie, in Tim Burton's adaptation of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."