Cillian Murphy has opened up about the mental state he gets in for 'Peaky Blinders'
Acting's weird, really, isn't it? Twenty seconds before a scene begins, an actor might be playing a silly game on their iPhone, eating a big thing of Skittles and having a chat with their assistant about UFOs, but suddenly, with a cry of "Action!", they're in a different world and inhabiting an entirely different person. It has to be jarring.
It seems like there are two ways you can go about it – just saying the lines you're told to say, or fully trying to embody another character along with all the emotions and trauma that might bring.
Both seem valid in certain circumstances. If you're in a hoover ad earning £200 playing "man impressed by hoover #3", you probably don't need to dig deep and expose the raw emotion at the core of his soul. Is he impressed by the hoover because he never really knew his dad? It doesn't matter.
But if you're the lead character in a show broadcast to millions, you might opt for the latter approach, which might have some fallout in your non-working hours. Peaky Blinders' Cillian Murphy has said that embodying the character of Tommy Shelby has led his wife and sons – artist Yvonne McGuinness and sons Malachy, 13, and Aran, 12, to describe him as being "not being all there" during periods of filming.
He told the Radio Times: "Part of acting in film and television is that you have to go from sitting around in a trailer twiddling your thumbs, doing the crossword or whatever, to bang! Being in it. So if you’re coming from a standstill, it doesn’t work. 'I’m not walking around talking like Tommy all the time, but you have to be there or thereabouts. So she’s right, I’m not all there when I’m filming. And in terms of life when we’re filming: I don’t socialise, I just go home, learn the lines, go to bed."
Shelby is haunted and disillusioned by his experiences in the war, a heavy load for an actor to inhabit. Murphy has described this process as "cancelling reality for a little while".
Series five of the show begins this weekend – Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday at 9pm on BBC One – and sees Shelby, in his new role as an MP, clashing with Oswald Mosley (played by Sam Claflin) and struggling to stay on the straight and narrow. Actor Helen McCrory has said this series is "disgustingly violent",
Murphy has described this series as exploring more of Shelby's inner life and the post-traumatic effects of his wartime experiences, telling Digital Spy: "I think this year feels to me, a bit more about the inside of Tommy's head, a little more, whereas last year was very much like external forces, you know? In the guise of the Mafia, it was pretty conventional what he was dealing with. There was obviously, his own psyche and mental fragility – I think that's always apparent – but this season it seems to me that it's more explicitly that, more about his wrestling with his own head, and that's fantastic to play."