Peaky Blinders has recently come to a close on BBC Two, leaving Tommy and his flat-cap wearing gang on the cusp of potentially life changing developments.
The show received extensive support from our Production Services team who provided key location advice, facilitated on-the-ground filming logistics and sourced regional crew. Find out more about how they helped out in our Peaky Blinders Production Services blog.
To mark the show’s home release, we talked to Finn Cole about making his acting-debut as troubled newcomer Michael, the perks of shooting outside London and having Snoop Dogg as a fan…
How did you got involved with Peaky Blinders?
It originally started with Joe who plays John in the show, he’s my older brother. He got the script through and we were chatting about it and reading them together and there was a character in there that was really cool and that I really liked. I never really had the intention of auditioning for it, I was still at college at the time doing my A levels and I had to concentrate on them and then the following week after I had read it, I was in college and I was really bored and I just thought ‘you know what? I’m going to give Joe a call and see what he says’. If there’s any way of me auditioning for it that would be absolutely great and he said go up to Birmingham, they’re doing open auditions. I was looking for train tickets up to Birmingham and I had no money so I couldn’t do it, and then he called me back and said why don’t we just tape an audition and I’ll send it to my agent? So we did that we sent it to his agent and he sent it on to the casting director and it went from there. I had a couple of meetings and before I knew it I was on set which was a crazy couple of months but it was really exciting and really good fun as well,
Did your brother Joe offer any words of advice on set?
Yeah, it was really good actually because it meant I could ask him all the stupid questions that I was too embarrassed to ask anyone else! Colm the director was one of the most influential people because he was so helpful and I could ask him anything, same with Laurie the Producer – they were really patient with me and they really helped with the way the character evolved but Joe was really useful and those first-day-nerves went out of the window because he is someone that I could go and spend my time with and stuff so it was really good.
Your character has made quite a splash – could you tell us a bit about him?
I love the character. The more we read into it, the more I worked out for myself what I thought about how his past had affected him. The older brothers have the war; that was their big thing and it has changed them and made them into these dangerous people so they feel very little emotion for people other than those that they were at war with and that’s the kind of men that they are, obviously with post-traumatic stress. Michael hasn’t had that. He was adopted at a young age and he remembers very little but he does remember that he had a family so he’s known all his adopted life that this isn’t where he belongs. He’s slightly psychotic in a way because he hasn’t felt emotion, he’s not felt real love – we had the idea that his adopted mother was scared of him which was really quite interesting, that’s why when he comes back he knows that this is his family, this is his blood but he doesn’t know how to deal with these situations.
How did you approach Michael?
He’s not very careful with his words but he is the kind of person that I don’t think wants to waste any time and would rather just be straight. You hear him talk about his village and that’s probably one of my favourite lines where he talks about the village and the wishing well because that’s who he is. Also, he’s a lot like Tommy – he’s very good at reading situations, he’s very smart and doesn’t like to give too much away, so that was fun to perform and also the catastrophic things that happen in episode five with him going to prison. It’s going to be very life changing for him and make him care less about not even just his family, but people in general. It gives him free rein to go a bit crazy but again these things can change and the character can change; less is more in these circumstances, so he’s an interesting character to read and perform because there’s this whole ‘behind the eyes’ thing and I really like him for that reason.
How do you think he will impact the direction of the show?
I don’t know. A lot of the time, because of the way that he is loved by Helen McCrory’s character Polly, I think that something exciting can happen to these characters, something even more catastrophic. A lot have said that he is destined to die and it’s going to be very tragic because that’s what happens to these characters so I don’t know. Obviously he talks about wanting to make ‘real money’ and run a legitimate business; that’s what he’s interested in. There are so many directions that it can go in and I have no idea what’s going to happen next, it’s only Steve Knight that does.
It must be tense reading scripts and finding out if your character survives…
Yeah exactly, it is like that but that’s really good fun, death in these kind of series can be really extraordinary to perform. We’ve seen it in TV shows like Game of Thrones when someone dies – it’s massive and it makes your character better in some respects. It does mean you’re getting killed off but that’s not the end of it because the death is a massive scene and it’s a really good chance to make some really, really good TV. We all want to stay on it for as long as possible but dying isn’t something we’re too worried about because it can be such a powerful bit of TV,
This is your first major acting role – has it felt like you’ve been thrown in at the deep end?
I’ve absolutely loved it. It’s been completely life changing to think eleven months ago I was in college with not really much of an idea about what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. I always wanted to be an actor but I never really thought it was a realistic prospect and then going from that, to talking to you now, it’s completely different but it’s been so much fun, I have had one of the best years ever. I have a lot of respect for the people that have helped me make all of this happen. It has been brilliant. It’s also very exciting working with people like Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson and Joe as well. You also learn a hell of a lot. It’s really exciting and I can’t thank them enough,
How was your first day on set – nerve wrecking?
It wasn’t too bad, I can’t remember being that nervous. I ate breakfast in the morning and when I’m nervous I don’t normally eat in the morning. It was good, Joe was in my first scene that I ever shot, a scene in the back of the van in episode three where Michael brings out the sandwiches and Arthur kind of laughs at him for it, that is the first scene of my life. There are hundreds of people around you doing different jobs and you’re working out who does what, so it’s a bit confusing and overwhelming but it was really good.
You shot on location in Manchester. Do you enjoy shooting in the North?
I love it because it’s different and nice to be away from home and from what you’re used to. The North is great, I have family that live up North and my Granddad lives in Manchester so we went and visited him a couple of times, so it has been amazing. People look after you as well and everyone is so kind and easygoing. I like being away from London,
There’s quite a lot of amazing TV at the moment, what do you like watching your spare time?
I try to watch as much as I can but obviously I’m very busy. I really like my comedy and I just finished watching the Thick Of It which I really enjoyed. I can safely say that I like a bit of everything. I like everything gangster that is why I actually enjoy watching Peaky so much.
Apparently Snoop Dogg and Stephen King are fans of Peaky Blinders. What do you think about that?
That is pretty cool, it is a bit weird but it’s awesome. I think it’s really good that people are enjoying it, obviously it being on Netflix in the US is massive for the future of the show and what we can do next. It means as a gang we can go further and as a production we can go further, which is awesome and hearing that Snoop is watching it is pretty cool. My friends find that pretty funny, it was a cool little Instagram post he put up of him sat on a plane watching it, that was awesome.
Where would you like to see the show go in series 3?
It is so difficult because with these gangster shows because you don’t know where they can go. I would like us to travel and venture a little further a field or really start running different things. I don’t know but Steve’s imagination is really exciting so we will see, I just can’t wait to read more of the script, it’s very exciting to read for the first time.
For more information about filming in Manchester, filming in Birmingham or filming in the regions, contact our Production Services team.
Peaky Blinders Series 2 is out on 17 Nov on DVD and Blu-ray. Available to purchase at BBCShop.com