Peaky Blinders’ Paul Anderson: playing Arthur Shelby helped my abandonment issues

Peaky Blinders’ Paul Anderson: playing Arthur Shelby helped my abandonment issues

0 comments 📅15 November 2017, 17:59

Actor Paul Anderson chats with MyM editor-in-chief Matt Chapman about the real-life pain that drives his stellar turn as Arthur Shelby, Jr.

Through three seasons of Birmingham gangland saga Peaky Blinders, Arthur Shelby, Jr. has suffered a lot. The oldest Shelby sibling and the bulldog of the family, Arthur is affected by severe shell-shock caused by his experiences in the war, leading to violent outbursts, constant mood swings, and attempts at suicide. And actor Paul Anderson has been there with him every step of the way.

“I don’t know how you act that kind of stuff – I try not to act anyway – that stuff all comes from a real place,” Anderson tells MyM as we chat about the trials his character has been through. “Most of the time I don’t really realise until I actually do it. Until then, you don’t know how you’re going to feel, when you live it and you feel those feelings for real.

“You can never really pre-empt that and never really discuss it until you’ve actually done it. And then out of that comes those moments of spontaneity and improvisation, if you want to call it that, where you’re reacting and feeling it for real. All that pain that Arthur has caused people and himself is a manifestation of me as an actor, and what I like to bring to it.”

Of all the tough times Arthur has been through, the one that resonated the most with Anderson was his troubled relationship with his father. “I remember doing the scenes with Tommy Flanagan, who plays my dad. I didn’t know before we did it that this was going to be very cathartic for me. It was a strange experience because my dad was a Scotsman and Tommy was playing Arthur senior as kind of Scots with an Irish filter,” he recalls.

“My relationship with my own father was very strained because he left home when I was 11 and I didn’t see him again. It was the same with Arthur, his father just abandoned him like I was abandoned by my own dad. And it brought up a lot of real feelings for me doing that stuff with Tommy. I never knew until playing it, when I felt that sort of abandonment all over again. I remember walking away on that platform, thinking as Arthur, ‘What have I got to live for?’”

Peaky Blinders season four airs on BBC Two from Wednesday 15 November 2017. You can read the full interview with Paul Anderson in Issue 68 of MyM magazine, which is out now.

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