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In season 4 of the British period crime drama Peaky Blinders (which is now available to watch on Netflix) the show’s central clan, led by Cillian Murphy’s Tommy Shelby, face a fresh threat in the form of Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, who plays a New York mobster named Luca Changretta.
“Season 3 saw [the family] reach new heights in terms of wealth and they left where they were,” says the show’s creator and writer, Steven Knight. “So, in season 4, I wanted to have a reason that they all have to go back. And basically they face a threat, and as a result of it, the only place that they know they can survive is by going back to Small Heath, where everyone is a soldier in their army. They have to go back to their roots and rediscover the place, looking at it through new eyes. I thought that would be an interesting way to platform the series. [Luca Changretta] is the threat. He is a gangster on a different scale to the Peakys. In a sense, he’s a mirror image of Tommy. In another way, he’s what Tommy would want to be. He’s also what Tommy fears he might become. It’s many things. But the danger comes as a consequence to an incident which happens in series 3. Because if there’s an act of violence, I like to make sure it’s apparent that those acts have consequences, which can come back to haunt you. Adrien had great fun playing the villain and he’s brilliant.”
How exactly did Brody get involved in this very British show?
“We get word from over there, from Hollywood, that certain people would like to be in it, and it’s incredibly flattering, because some fantastic people are out there who love the show,” says Knight. “I knew which character I wanted to threaten the Shelbys and, from the beginning, first choice, was Adrien — and we got him, which was fantastic.”
Other new faces joining Peaky veterans Murphy, Helen McCrory, and Tom Hardy this season include Game of Thrones actor Aidan Gillen and amateur boxer-turned-thespian Jack Rowan, who play father-and-son allies of the Shelbys.
“When threatened by the character played by Adrien Brody, then you need reinforcements, and they need to be the best, and so Tommy goes for Aidan Gillen, who is basically a Romani hitman,” explains Knight. “Jack is Aidan’s son, a boxer. We were saying, ‘We probably want an actor who can box rather than a boxer who can act.’ And we found that he was both.”
Knight hopes the six-episode season leaves viewers feeling one thing, if nothing else.
“Shocked,” he laughs. “Deeply shocked. Hopefully, deeply, deeply traumatized. No, what I try to do is make surprises genuine, rather than set up the surprise and then pull the trigger. The ending of season 4? I defy anyone to guess what’s going to happen. It’s a surprise of a different kind.”
Watch the U.K. trailer for Peaky Blinders season 4, above.