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The BBC drama’s new season is expected to be released towards the end of 2021 or early 2022 after coronavirus led producers to delay filming. The popular show, which stars Cillian Murphy as crime boss Thomas Shelby, savoured a record 3.84 million viewers for its season five finale – beating its previous record by 120,000. Despite its success, Stephen Knight, the creator of Peaky Blinders, admitted that actors came under fire from viewers who weren’t convinced by their TV portrayals.
Ahead of the show’s debut in 2013, Mr Knight revealed that he “feared Brummies would say it was b******s” and after it was released, admitted to knowing “they didn’t like the accents”.
He claimed to “feel the pain” of viewers because previous attempts had been “done badly on the telly”, but stated: “At least we gave it a go.”
Mr Knight admitted the Brummie accent was “famously difficult to get”, which he attributed to a lack of representation on TV and “because it’s difficult” to imitate.
He revealed that producers tried to convince him to change the setting for Peaky Blinders – despite the story being based on real-life accounts from his family and historical accounts.
During an interview on the BBC podcast Obsessed With… last year, Mr Knight said: “In the early stages there were meetings with people saying, ‘Well could this be the East End of London?’ I was going ‘No, no, no.’”
Despite acknowledging actors’ difficulty with the accent, he defended Cillian Murphy’s attempts and stated that he “got it straight away”.
This came after criticism from fans, which Mr Knight addressed in a 2014 BBC interview, and stated that many productions were afraid to set a show in Birmingham or feature characters with the dialect.
He said: “I’ve been banging on about doing stuff in Birmingham for years and years, and everyone says, ‘We can’t, it’s the accent thing’.
“For some reason it’s a very difficult accent to get right, harder even than Geordie. People in Birmingham should be honoured they can do it!
“It’s considered too difficult so [they] won’t do anything in Birmingham. There’s been a big black hole in the middle of the country as far as TV production goes.”
Mr Knight explained that Murphy was able to nail the accent through being exposed to his friends during a boozy session at the pub that he based fictional establishment The Garrison on.
He said: “I took him there with a group of people I grew up with, with broad Birmingham accents and we sat around the table in this really rough pub, I mean really rough pub.
“We closed the room off as the landlord and landlady got drunk, so there’s all this stuff going on and Cillian put a tape recorder in the middle of the table.
“People just talked and told stories and you know it’s quite a sort of mixed bunch, so often they could say ‘Can you turn that off while I tell you this story?’”
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Murphy then learned to replicate the accent from those recordings and would phone up Mr Knight to see if he pronounced words in the correct way.
He continued: “It’s a different accent to the northern one – which people seem to slip into quite easily.
“There’s a tone to a Birmingham accent – it goes up and down in a particular way but I think they (the actors) grasp it brilliantly.
“I know at first people were saying ‘Well the accents were (falls silent).’”
He explained that he had a “phobia” of using voice coaches because actors become “so concentrated on pronunciation that they forget to act”.
Mr Knight explained that other stars listened to Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne because he had a “great central Birmingham accent”.
Sophie Rundle, who played Thomas Shelby’s sister Ada in the show, studied in neighbouring city Coventry, which Mr Knight felt helped her out.
He also added that filming some scenes in the Black Country, an area of Birmingham, allowed actors to “immerse themselves” – despite the accent being different to Brummie.
Peaky Blinders is available to watch on Netflix.
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