Last year, Helen McCrory passed away at just 52 years old following a battle with cancer. The actress, who played Tommy Shelby’s aunt, Polly Gray, in Peaky Blinders, was set to star in the show’s sixth season. She was also going to be voicing her character in a new VR game, Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom.
Since McCrory’s passing, the show’s writers made the decision to have Polly die too. A few months ago, creator Steven Knight shared that “She is still a very strong influence on Tommy, and therefore the whole thing. Her death is a catalyst for a lot of stuff that happens, all the way up to the end of episode 6.”
However, for her role in the video game, which is set between season four and five, actress Ruth Gibson will be stepping up to the post, despite initial hesitancies, “it just felt very uncomfortable for me literally stepping into a dead woman’s shoes.”
Gibson soon realised how important it would be to help McCrory’s legacy continue. She said, “I’m a huge fan of the show. And so to be able to kind of step into it in this way, I thought was really, really exciting. I was watching back episodes of Peaky Blinders just to kind of absorb myself in Helen’s work, to try and encompass that physicality that she has – and she has such a strong physicality she brought to the role – when I saw the news that she had so sadly passed away.”
“Then we had some conversations with the producers at Maze Theory about what they wanted to do to honour Helen, and to really create a legacy of the character in Polly that she has created, which I thought was a really wonderful way of looking at it.”
“Peaky Blinders, and especially the point where King’s Ransom is, without Polly is losing something. And I think maintaining the character of Polly is more of a testament to the work and the brilliance that Helen created. And actually keeping her in there, I agree that it was an important thing.”
Gibson also noted that McCrory’s performance was “just a breath of fresh air.” She continued, “I love the strength she has. I love the power she has. But, and I think this is absolutely testament to Helen’s performance, she has a vulnerability and a real softness. She’s the heart, to me, in amongst this strength.”
“And I think that’s going to be, especially as it’s VR, one of the experiences for the gamer that I hope that they will really take away. That they connect with Polly in a way that I don’t think they connect with another character in the game.”
Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom is set for release later this year.