How Tommy Shelby’s Lack Of Eating Became A Running Gag On Peaky Blinders

If we were to take everything we see on-screen in “Peaky Blinders” at face value, we’d have no choice but to accept that the entirety of Tommy Shelby’s diet consists of Irish whiskey, multiple packs of cigarettes a day, and a heaping dose of brutal violence to keep him going. Should you have ever caught yourself wondering why the life expectancy during the early 1900s was so low, well, there’s your answer. As it turns out, serving as the PTSD-afflicted leader of the Peaky Blinders in smog-choked Birmingham tends to be hazardous to one’s health. Who knew!

As silly and amusing as it was to institute an unofficial “ban” on letting Tommy have anything to eat, Cillian Murphy sees a greater benefit to giving television characters the time and space to create their own little quirks and oddities. In the BBC Radio interview, the subject of Tommy’s eating habits only arose after a question about the peculiar way that Murphy always rubbed his lips with his cigarettes before lighting them. As he explains, this came about as a practical concern — the specific herbal cigarettes they used would always stick to his lips in a very un-cinematic way, so that quickly became a habit that Murphy directly integrated into the character. As he put it:

“So these things develop when you have the luxury of being with a character for so long, these little things arise. I will say to Steve or Steve will pick up on it, and then we’ll just kind of run with it.”

Although the series came to an end in season 6, the planned “Peaky Blinders” movie means we haven’t seen the last of Tommy’s quirks just yet.

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