Peaky Blinders' Charlie Murphy: "Jessie Eden is a woman you ignore at your own peril"
Peaky Blinders Is Now Back On Our Screens
Character Background: Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy)
As an enigmatic union convenor, Jessie Eden is a woman you ignore at your own peril. With a single blow of a whistle she can bring the whole of Birmingham’s workforce out on strike, and Tommy Shelby may have vastly underestimated her power and influence.
How are we first introduced to Jessie Eden in series four?
I think you get a feeling of her strength and wit immediately. You first see her in the men’s toilet in Tommy Shelby’s factory. She is there because there are no women’s toilets higher up in the factory levels and that is a brilliant introduction to her world and how she navigates it. Jessie has come to Tommy’s factory to speak with him about equal pay for women across all his factories. She’s done her homework on Tommy, which I think is a big surprise and catches him off-guard.
Has Tommy met his match in Jessie? Does she pose a credible threat to the management of his business?
I think Jessie is as good a chess player as Tommy is. Tommy underestimates her in the beginning but he quickly realises that he has met his match. That is very intriguing for both of them I think.
Tommy reacts badly to Jessie’s legitimate equal pay issue. Does he really think this tactic and calling her ‘sweetheart’ will really solve the problem?
I think Tommy is goading Jessie with the suggestion of docking the male workers pay in order to pay the women more. He is a man used to working a few steps ahead all the time and knowing how to achieve things with everyone else playing catch up with him. I think he is trying the same routine with Jessie but he realises pretty fast he has her all wrong. Tommy thinks that this is a real touché moment but he doesn’t factor in that she is fearless when it comes to the politics of it all and that she will blow that whistle and bring people out on strike.
It is revealed that there is a personal connection between Tommy and Jessie. Do you feel that she reminds Tommy of simpler times before the war and that he is a good person deep down?
With Jessie having done her research on Tommy, she has a real glimpse into what sort of character Tommy was in the past before the war and life had tainted him along with his hopes and dreams. She unearths something in his past that shows his vulnerable side, which not a lot of people would have seen. In doing so she discovers they have similarities and sees another side of him, which many people would not usually see.
You have a scene where you are up on stage at the communist party meeting; what sort of direction were you given by the director David Caffrey on how to play this powerful moment?
The scene where Jessie in on stage addressing the communist party members, was my audition scene so in a sense I already had my teeth into it before filming began. It was such a delicious piece of writing; exactly what a political speech should be. It is full of rhetoric and strength and captures that political time so perfectly. David and I ran the scenes a few times and we found the rhythm but it all came down to those wonderful words by Steven.
What was it like to reunite with your Love/Hate director, David Caffrey? Was it useful to have that shorthand already in place with him?
Love/Hate was one of my first television productions straight out of college and David and I worked together on it for a number of years. That show was a real privilege to work on. Coming into a new show like Peaky Blinders is like starting school all over again but having worked with David in the past really helped as we had that trust already. David has such great energy and I was so happy to be working with him again.
How did you go about researching the character; is there much historical material available about her?
Jessie Eden is a real person therefore David and I talked a bit about the things we had found online pertaining to her. Interestingly, there’s not a lot of information online about her but what we did get from our research was a sense of the colour and flavour of Jessie. She was so out of her time, so fearless and such an amazing woman.
When you are in the period costume and make-up and walk onto those sets does it feed into your character and help you get into the Peaky Blinders state of mind?
It’s really important to me to collaborate with the costume and make-up teams in creating the character look especially as Jessie is based on this person in history. They talked about her in the papers at that time as being this feminine woman but politically fierce so we tried to work that into her look. The period style elevates the work you have already done while developing the character you have created. When you make that transformation from your regular clothes into the period costume and walk on those wonderfully designed sets it all feeds into the character you are playing. The art department have done an incredible job. The production values are just stunning and they are what drew me to the series as a viewer.
Peaky Blinders IV returned to UK screens last night (November 15) and will continue to screen at 9pm on BBC Two