Peaky Blinders' Charlotte Riley: 'Tommy and May are both quite lonely in their own ways'

Peaky Blinders Is Back On Our Screens

Character Background: May Carleton (Charlotte Riley)

Aristocratic horse trainer, May Carleton, cautiously returns into Tommy’s life. With Tommy at his most vulnerable, does May dare open her heart again to the man she once loved. Is he worth reopening old wounds for?

Steven Knight’s acclaimed Birmingham saga reaches new levels of intensity in its action-packed fourth series starting Wednesday 15 November on BBC Two.

How are we first introduced to May Carleton in series four?

We have not seen May since the finale of series two, where Tommy leaves her at the Derby. We can only assume that Tommy has called her up because he needs her to train his horse. Tommy and May then met again for the first time at Charlie’s Yard when she comes to collect the horse. They clearly haven’t seen each other for years.

Why does May choose to come back?

May lives quite an elevated life and she’s probably able to keep up with Tommy’s goings on in the newspapers. Tommy was probably the first man that she felt passion for since her husband passed away, so she’s still curious about him. He had a profound effect on her so he intrigues May. Equally, May’s a strong enough person that if he were out of order, she would leave the situation.

What made the role of May Carleton stand out to you in the first instance?

I watched series one and absolutely loved it. So when the scripts came in and I read the character of May I thought that Steven Knight had written her in a very intriguing way. What’s interesting about Tommy and May’s relationship is that they’re both quite lonely in their own ways. She has the weight of solely running an estate in isolation whilst he has to run an entire family on his own. I think there’s something that connects them. People constantly need things from both of them but they don’t need anything from each other. That makes for an interesting dynamic. I personally think that you always get a sense of time standing still whenever we do a scene. I think that’s what intrigues them about each other, those timeless moments.

Is Tommy the ‘one that got away’ for May?

I don’t think she’s had many to even get away. She’s not somebody who relentlessly pursues things for her own means. She’s quite accepting of people’s choices because she has been through a lot. Equally, as you saw in series two, she makes it clear to Tommy that she’s not offended by the fact that he’s in love with someone else, but she won’t give up on what they have either. She’s very open-minded and pragmatic with her love. That’s interesting to Tommy because he’s surrounded by people spewing with emotion all of the time, whereas May is quite contained and self-reliant. That can be an intriguing quality between people like Tommy and May.

Is May attracted to Tommy’s danger?

I think he’s a Rubik's cube to her. I don’t know if it’s the danger. She’s intrigued by him and what makes him tick. At least he is passionate and cares about something.

How does May react to coming back to Charlie’s Yard?

I don’t think any of that fazes her. She’s beyond that snobbery. I think she’s interested by where Tommy’s from and what has made him the man he is.

Is there a future for Tommy and May as a pair?

I think that door for two people who have that chemistry is still definitely open.

Peaky Blinders IV returned to UK screens last night (November 15) and will continue to screen at 9pm on BBC Two 

November 16, 2017 6:03am ET by BBC TWO  

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