Its Cillians show Peaky Blinders star opens up on exit from Tommy Shelby series

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Season six of Peaky Blinders marks the final series of the hugely popular BBC One gangster crime drama. In the latest episode, Tommy Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy) arrived back from Boston and set out his plans to take down fascists in the UK and abroad. The episode saw the return of some familiar faces, but one actor who has not appeared on Peaky Blinders since season four has opened up on their reason for quitting the show. 

Peaky Blinders follows the lives of the notorious Shelby family in a post-First World War Birmingham, with Tommy at its core. 

Since the series first landed on screens a decade ago, it has centred around Tommy and his younger brother John (Joe Cole). 

John was killed off two seasons ago but 33-year-old Joe has detailed why he wanted to leave the gritty drama behind. 

“With Peaky Blinders, I never really got out of the gates in that role. It’s Cillian’s show really,” Joe admitted to The Metro. 

“I actually chose to leave Peaky Blinders because I wanted to explore new avenues, and new characters and new stories.”

The London-born actor, who has taken a lead role in ITV’s The Ipcress File, has turned down many gang-related roles in the past few years. 

After leaving Peaky Blinders he did go on to star in Gangs Of London, on Sky Atlantic, as it was a role he thought would be “special”. 

He said: “When I received this, literally I read the title and I thought, ‘No’.

“[But] I read the first episode and the synopsis and I was like, ‘This could be something special’.”

Joe portrays a London mob boss called Sean Wallace who wants to avenge the death of his father.

While he is the main character, he has insisted the show’s format is different to Peaky Blinders. 

He explained: “This show is more ensemble, it follows characters on a deep level.”

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As well as being the lead in the Sky series, Joe has been cast as the protagonist in the spy thriller The Ipcress File where he plays Harry Palmer. 

The new ITV Cold War series airs at the same Sunday night time slot as Peaky Blinders on the BBC.

Speaking about playing Harry, Joe told said: “He’s hyper-intelligent, charming, almost a figure born in the wrong decade in some respects in terms of his forward-thinking with regard to feminism, social mobility and things like that. He’s got a certain swagger about him underneath a serious exterior.

“Harry uses humour almost like a weapon. He’s quite facetious. His humour treads the line, but it’s facetious in the delivery. 

“He’s not being sarcastic. He’s being playful. The undercurrent is, ‘I get you, you get me, we all understand the situation here. But we’re pawns in a bigger game’. He reminds me a bit of my grandad. He’s very relatable.”

The Ipcress File was first adapted into a film back in 1965 with Sir Michael Caine as spy Harry.

Harry’s first assignment in the opening episode on Sunday saw him investigate the suspected kidnapping of a British nuclear scientist.

There are a total of six episodes in The Ipcress File, airing weekly on ITV on Sundays at 9pm.

Peaky Blinders continues Sundays at 9pm on BBC One. 

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