Check­ing in with HE­LEN MCCRORY

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Editor's Choice - BY GE­ORGE DICKIE

When it comes to on-screen smok­ing, “Peaky Blin­ders” takes a back seat to no other se­ries, not even “Mad Men.”

In­deed, many of the main char­ac­ters in the 1920s-set English crime drama smoke, so when the time comes to call “Ac­tion!” the at­mos­phere cre­ated by the clove cig­a­rettes the ac­tors are re­quired to draw on is usu­ally quite thick. And many com­plain about the taste.

“Oh my God, if I never see an­other one again,” says He­len McCrory, aka Shelby fam­ily trea­surer Polly Gray, her voice drop­ping to a dis­gusted growl. “As props, (se­ries star Cil­lian Mur­phy) smoked a thou­sand in four months. I mean, that’s hideous. And yeah, they are (dis­gust­ing).”

The Net­flix se­ries opens its fifth sea­son Fri­day, Oct. 4, and picks up in Oc­to­ber 1929, when the stock mar­ket crash has rocked the fi­nan­cial world and wiped out much of the Shelby fam­ily wealth. But Polly be­ing Polly, she is in Monte Carlo en­joy­ing the car­nal com­pany of a young male com­pan­ion when the bad news comes. Im­me­di­ately, her sur­vival skills come to the fore.

“She’s an al­ley cat,” the 51-year-old Lon­doner ex­plains, “and like most al­ley cats, they’re best when they’re foot­loose and fancy free and that’s what she be­comes very quickly and she just has to rely on in­stinct and she has to rely on try­ing to get the fam­ily back quickly and try­ing not to – the di­vi­sions that are al­ready in the fam­ily be­cause, of course, it’s (Polly’s) son who has caused this en­tire catas­tro­phe by not lis­ten­ing to the head of the com­pany – make that some­thing that’s go­ing to split the com­pany and the fam­ily per­ma­nently.” Full name: He­len El­iz­a­beth McCrory Birth date: Aug. 17, 1968 Birth­place: Lon­don Fam­ily ties: Hus­band is ac­tor Damian Lewis (“Bil­lions”); they have a 13-year-old daugh­ter and an 11-year-old son

TV cred­its in­clude: “Anna Karen­ina,” “Dick­ens,” “The Last King,” “Life,” “Penny Dread­ful,” “Doc­tor Who,” “To Ap­po­mat­tox,” “MotherFath­erSon,” “His Dark Ma­te­ri­als” (forth­com­ing) Movie cred­its in­clude: “In­ter­view With the Vam­pire” (1994), “Dad Sav­age” (1998), “En­dur­ing Love” (2004), “Casanova” (2005), “The Queen” (2006), “Harry Pot­ter and the Half-Blood Prince” (2009), “Harry Pot­ter and the Deathly Hal­lows: Part 1” (2010), “Harry Pot­ter and the Deathly Hal­lows: Part 2” (2011), “Hugo” (2011), “Fly­ing Blind” (2012), “Sky­fall” (2012), “The Woman in Black 2: An­gel of Death” (2014) Stage cred­its in­clude: “Un­cle Vanya,” “As You Like It,” “Ros­mer­sholm,” “Medea,” “The Last of the Hauss­mans”

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