Interview: Steven Knight on Peaky Blinders Season 2
Chris Bryant | On 01, Oct 2014
“If the drug of the first series was opium, the drug of the second series is cocaine.”
Birmingham crime boss Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy, Inception) heads into perilous territory in the second series of Steven Knight’s acclaimed gangster epic.
As the 1920s begin to roar, business is booming for the Peaky Blinders gang. Shelby starts to expand his legal and illegal operations. He has his sights set firmly on wider horizons, and the race tracks of the South are calling out for new management.
Shelby’s meteoric rise brings him into contact with both the upper echelons of society and new adversaries from London’s criminal enterprises.
Meanwhile, his home turf of Birmingham is beset by new challenges as an enemy from his past returns to the city with plans for a revenge of biblical proportions.
VODzilla.co dons its cap and chats to writer/director Steven Knight about what’s in store…
How did the idea for Peaky Blinders first take shape?
I had the idea for many years, from stories told to me by my parents. They grew up in that area of Birmingham, my Dad’s uncle grew up with Peaky Blinders. I’ve been hearing stories about them since I was nine years old. I’d always hear these stories as a kid living in this amazing world. So I wanted to tell this untold story of gangsters and racketeers after the First World War exactly the way I’d heard it, like it’s through the eyes of a ten year-old. To them it’s more glamorous – it’s a brightly heighted reality.
When production started, was there a plan for a second season or was it something that evolved?
The question of the whole series – however many there may be – is “Can you escape where you’re from?” or “Can you escape your past?” Tommy’s journey is from pretty much as low as you can be. So can he make himself respectable? First of all, can he make himself rich? But far more importantly is “Can he make himself socially acceptable?” Season 2 sees Tommy carrying on – much richer than he was – but still striving.
How did the Jack White soundtrack come about and will that continue?
We’d all completely decided on it before we even began shooting, I think, that we couldn’t go with a contemporary soundtrack. It’s just another barrier between the audience and the story. The music, the way it’s written, the way it’s acted – it’s all to make you feel these are modern people. They do the things we would do, they just happen to live in a different time. There’s not meant to be anything different about these characters and I think the music reinforces that fact. You take music that’s evocative and emotional and apply it to a story about common people and that’s what brings it alive.
A lot of the content is uncompromising to the point of brutality, how much input was there from outside sources, such as the BBC, or the cast? How much of it came straight from you?
The BBC are fantastic, they completely leave you alone, they offer some very, very minor notes and the actors have a level of input in how they perform. Certain times, they completely transformed the lines and they always made them come alive. But the scripts I’ve written are pretty much what you see.
There are a number of actors more commonly associated with cinema than with television – especially considering the main cast addition in Season 2. Was that intentional?
I think the line between TV and cinema is blurring a lot, I think that lots of people in cinema wouldn’t have done TV because they’re “different” but now, there’s no reason you can’t tell a story equally as well on TV as you do in any other format. And I mean, I’ve just made a film with Tom (Hardy – the excellent Locke, now on VOD) and he looked at the script and agreed to become involved with Season 2. With everyone else, all of our first choices were firstly, available and, secondly, wanted to be involved.
In terms of a change in scale or tone or pace, what can be expected of Season 2?
As you’d expect, we have really upped the game in the second season. There’s an expansion, mostly. Of all of those things and also of his [Tommy’s] empire. Much more heightened, a lot going on and a lot more story to tell. I guess if the drug of the first series was opium, the drug of this series is cocaine.
So, BBC Two viewers, razor blade-enthusiasts and fans of Tom Hardy (everyone), buckle up ready for tomorrow night on BBC 2.
Peaky Blinders returns to BBC 2 at 9pm on Thursday 2nd October
Never seen Peaky Blinders? Read our review of Season 1 – plus where you can catch up online.