Checking in with HELEN MCCRORY
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”