‘Peaky Blinders’ is a period crime drama series set in the first half of the 20th century and offers a largely fictional interpretation of the historical Peaky Blinders, a street gang active in Birmingham from the 1880s to 1910s. The series mainly revolves around the fictional part Irish Catholic and part Romani Shelby family, the members of which control the Peaky Blinders. Portrayed by Helen McCrory, Elizabeth “Polly” Gray, née Shelby, is the matriarch of the Shelby family. When her nephews — Tommy (Cillian Murphy), Arthur (Paul Anderson), and Johnny (Joe Cole) — were off fighting in World War I, she was the leader of both the family and the Peaky Blinders. After their return, Tommy assumes leadership, and It remains a point of contention between them for most of the series. Polly is a certified accountant and serves as the second-in-command to Tommy and treasurer at the Shelby Company Limited.
In the season 6 premiere, titled ‘Black Day,’ Tommy and his people discover that the IRA has killed Polly along with her fiancé Aberama Gold (Aidan Gillen) and Tommy’s friend and fellow veteran Barney Thomason (Cosmo Jarvis) for attempting to assassinate the British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin). The episode is dedicated to McCrory, who passed away in April 2021 and couldn’t take part in the production of the sixth season. Here is everything you need to know about it.
Who Was Helen McCrory?
Helen McCrory was an English actress. Originally from Paddington, London, England, she attended the Drama Centre in London, studying acting. McCrory made her acting debut in 1993 in an episode of ‘Full Stretch.’ She debuted on the big screen with the 1994 thriller ‘Uncovered.’ In the ensuing years, she built an impressive resume with works in TV shows and films.
McCrory was cast as the eponymous character in the 2000 miniseries ‘Anna Karenina;’ Rose Fitzgerald in ‘North Square;’ Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine, in ‘The Last King;’ Madame Kali in ‘Penny Dreadful,’ and Dawn Ellison in ‘Roadkill.’ Besides ‘Peaky Blinders,’ she is arguably most known for portraying Narcissa Malfoy in the ‘Harry Potter‘ film series. She also appears in ‘Becoming Jane’ and ‘Skyfall’ and lends her voice to Mrs. Bean in ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox.’ Moreover, McCrory did extensive theater work, appearing in productions of ‘Macbeth,’ Uncle Vanya,’ ‘Twelfth Night,’ and ‘Medea.’ For her performance in ‘Peaky Blinders,’ she received the TV Series and Serials: Actress accolade at the 2014 Biarritz International Festival of Audiovisual Programming. In 2017, she was awarded an OBE.
Helen McCrory’s Cause of Death
McCrory was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she didn’t want the news to be publicized. She died on 16 April 2021, at her home in London. She was 52 years old at the time. Her husband, actor Damian Lewis, took to Twitter to share the news. “I’m heartbroken to announce that after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family,” he wrote. “She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you.”
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) April 16, 2021
Condolences subsequently poured in from various quarters. Steven Knight, the creator of ‘Peaky Blinders,’ said in a statement, “Helen was one of the great actors of her generation. She was so powerful and controlled and this is so sad.”
Read More: Is Peaky Blinders Based on a True Story?