Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight said continuing the story after the death of actress Helen McCrory was a “challenge” – but believes she would have wanted them to keep going with the crime drama.
McCrory, who played Shelby family matriarch Polly Gray in the hit BBC One show, died from cancer aged 52 last April.
Knight reflected on the show’s future following the death of the “incredible actor”, as well as his upcoming projects – including the upcoming stage adaptation, Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby.
He told the PA news agency: “It was a terrible, tragic loss that happened while we were shooting.
“And the loss of such an incredible human being is the main thing. The loss of such an incredible actor is awful.
“She was right at the heart (of the series). There are three central characters – she was one of them.
“And it’s a challenge, and was a challenge, to keep going with the story without her. But we knew that she would have wanted that to continue. So that’s what we did.”
The actress, the wife of Homeland star Damian Lewis, had starred in every series of the show since it began in 2013, and was also known for appearing in the Harry Potter films and the 2012 James Bond flick Skyfall.
It was announced last year that the upcoming sixth series of Peaky Blinders would be its last and, while an official release date has yet to be confirmed, Knight teased it will be “very soon”.
Line Of Duty star Stephen Graham, who played Detective Sergeant John Corbett, will be joining the cast for the final series.
Knight described the Liverpudlian star as one of the show’s best actors, adding: “I really wanted to use him as a character and there was a particular Scouse character that becomes part of the story – and who else would you cast?”
He joked: “I think he’s just happy to be using his own accent.”
Peaky Blinders is also being adapted into a film – with production starting once the final series has aired – as well as a dance show.
The Redemption of Thomas Shelby has been adapted by Knight and the dance company Rambert, and is due to open at the Birmingham Hippodrome on September 27 before moving to London and on to a UK tour in 2023.
Knight told PA: “It seemed to happen naturally even though, when you look at it, you think it’s a leap. And I hope it is a leap. I want it to be a leap.
“Rambert … are the perfect fit in terms of Peaky because they’re a dance and ballet company that is committed to taking dance to the people.
“They did a 12-minute piece for the Peaky Blinders Festival which I thought was fantastic. I thought it was wonderful.
“As a consequence of that, I wrote the scene in series five where there was a ballet taking place at Tommy’s house.
“And then the conversations continued and it just felt that this story, these characters, could live on a live stage.
“And if they are going to live on a live stage, rather than do a play, it feels that this is the right thing because music has always driven Peaky Blinders from the beginning.
“So it felt very natural.”
Knight said the production will feature new unseen elements and will be set at the end of the First World War, featuring a “semi-tragic love story end and redemption”.