Paul Anderson On What The Future Holds For Arthur Shelby

The actor on season 4, and whether the real start of Peaky Blinders can find true happiness

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Spoilers ahead!

Ever since Tommy Shelby's wife died in season 3, his heart has grown harder and our sympathy for the leader of the Peaky Blinders has begun to fade. He feels like a man lost: still ruthless and capable, but without the family bonds that made him human.

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Not so that other member of the Shelby clan, whose frailty is still very much there to see: Arthur, the PTSD-afflicted elder brother who switches from violent rage to childlike innocence in the time it takes to knock back another numbing whisky.

In actor Paul Anderson's hands, Arthur is becoming Steven Knight's most enduring character: a muddle of a man who in many ways embodies the sense of crisis facing men today. Caught between a life of violence and inherited male stoicism and the path to emotional recovery represented by his wife Linda, the question of what will become of Arthur is arguably the most interesting one left in the best British drama for decades.

Mid-way through season 4, we spoke with Anderson about that very subject and got his thoughts on where the show - and Arthur - can go next.

Arthur started season 4 in domestic bliss, but has been dragged back to the mean streets of Birmingham - via a trip to the barbers - by the murder of his brother John at the hands of the Italian-American mafia

It was great to see Arthur back to doing what he does best in the last episode, killing two mafia hitman in Tommy's factory.

I do enjoy those scenes. We filmed it in this cold industrial space in the north of England. We had to figure out how it was Arthur got covered in paint, so I just said: look, get one of the guys [the revolutionaries trying to burn down the factory] to throw a bucket over me. We only had one shot at you know, 'cus once you get the paint on you that's it. So the guy just threw the paint at my face and you can it was a bit of shock because I almost swallowed it.

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So you were really pissed off for real then?!

Well it was real, because I knew it was gonna hit me but I didn't know how hard it would feel! It was a perfect shot though, and from there on we just devised the whole fight. I was really pleased with the outcome.

Arthur is such a fan favourite, and a lot of that is down to the tenderness with which you play him. There's a lovely scene earlier this season where he talks about his love of cars and dreams of owning a garage. Do you think Arthur has given up on the idea of a happy life with Linda?

I don't think it's gone out his mind altogether. I think what Linda does is offer Arthur some grounding. He needs a woman like Linda. A lot of people say Linda holds Arthur back because all of a sudden he was gonna be this pious, god-fearing sort… but what she brings is some sanity to his life. I think with Linda's help he may eventually get the garage, or fix cars down the back of his garden. As long as she's there, there's some hope for him.

"That's where I go with Arthur: that eleven year old boy whose father ignored him."

How badly has John's death affected him?

I remember we shot the scene in the morgue in episode two, and I genuinely felt very upset that day, I really sort of went for it. I said to Cillian afterwards: I don't know what came over me, but he said: that's how Arthur would react. Tommy wouldn't, but with Arthur, it's always all out there. He tries to hide his vulnerability but he can't.

Do those extremes make him a good character to play?

Oh I have a lot of fun playing Arthur. Steven [Knight's] writing leads the way, but obviously you have to make choices as an actor. I could have made him harder or less sympathetic. But I chose play with the vulnerability and the rawness - and also that post-traumatic stress that he had from the war, which as you know was not understood at the time. He can be loud and violent but then almost childlike. That's where I go with Arthur: that eleven year old boy whose father ignored him and didn't give him any love or any time. Because he's the oldest brother he would have been around Arthur senior a lot more than Tommy or John.

What was it like filming with the new cast members?

It's great because you know, they're all really pumped to be there. Adrian [Brody] came straight over to say how are you doing, I'm a fan of the show. He couldn't wait get involved. Aiden [Gillen] too.

And Tom Hardy is back.

Yeah Tommy and I, we're good friends. Here's a spoiler for you though: we don't have a scene together this season. They did write a scene for us but we never got to do it. But everyone else was really cool and really happy to be there. It's great the show is attracting big stars in their own right.

Ok last question: what can you tell us about Polly's betrayal?!

I mean, you know why she's done it. You know why she's sitting there and trying to make this deal to protect her family. But whether or not it comes to fruition obviously I can't say. You'll enjoy it more that way!