Meet new kid on the Peaky Blinder block - Joe Cole: 'Each character has darkness about them'

Joe Cole talks about his Peaky Blinder character Joe Shelby

Character Background: John Shelby (Joe Cole)

Bruised and broken by Tommy’s deceit, John has uprooted his family to the countryside. No longer a member of the Peaky Blinders, John is determined to start afresh, however, when new enemies launch their attack, can he ignore his brother’s call to arms?

How are the audience introduced to John at the beginning of series four?

We open on Polly, John, Arthur and Michael all in prison. It is about six months after the finale of series three, where Tommy betrayed the family and stitched them up with the authorities as a result of the train explosion and various murders. The gang is completely disbanded and the brothers’ trust in Tommy is completely broken. We then flash forward and we see all the family living very separate lives in different parts of Birmingham.

What moments are you particularly excited about seeing unfold when the series airs?

I’m really excited to see how the gang reforms and how those family dynamics work out. Tommy’s issue this year is how does he get the Shelbys back together and protect them from this impending threat against the family.

John is very close to his brother Arthur. Is their bond as strong in series four?

Their bond is extremely strong through the series. Paul Anderson and myself have become good friends over the series. I hope we have managed to bring that close friendship to the characters. I feel that this has come across on screen in the previous series and it feels even stronger this year.

What are some of your favourite locations to return to each series?

It is always nice to go back to Powis Street in Liverpool, which is our Watery Lane location. That feels like we’re back for a new series when you walk onto that street. The dock area where we shot a lot of the action sequences back in series one, which is located at the Black Country Living Museum, feels like true Peaky Blinders territory too.

What was your reaction on receiving the new scripts from Steven Knight?

It is always exciting to receive the scripts before we start on a new series. There is a real buzz from all the cast to see where Steven is taking the characters and what new characters might be joining the series.

What is it like on set when all the family get together?

I think what is special about our show is that you do get to do those large family scenes where the entire cast are altogether. It’s quite rare to have that. We certainly enjoy ourselves during those big family set pieces.

What do you think makes Peaky Blinders such a global hit?

I think the appeal of the series comes from the look and style and general swagger of the Peaky Blinders. Steve has written the characters as lovable anti-heroes. Each character is multi-layered and has their own individual complexities and darkness about them.

There is a lot of Peaky Blinders fan art out there. How does this make you feel?

I’ve seen a few people with tattoos of my character, which just shows how popular and beloved the series is. It is a great reflection on everyone’s hard work from the cast, crew, Steven and the producers.

Peaky Blinders IV returns tonight, November 15 at 9pm on BBC Two 

November 15, 2017 8:32am ET by BBC TWO  

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