Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy has spoken out about the “difficulty” of filming the final season of the BBC hit without co-star Helen McCrory, following her death last year.

McCrory’s husband, Damian Lewis, announced in April that she had died at home at the age of 52 following a “heroic battle” with cancer.

Filming of the sixth and final series of the period crime drama began in January 2021, after it initially had to be postponed due to Covid-19.

McCrory was absent from the beginning of filming due to her cancer diagnosis.

Murphy, who portrays protagonist Tommy Shelby, appeared alongside his on-screen aunt since the show began in 2013 described her as the “beating heart” of the show.

He told Esquire UK: “We were just reeling throughout the whole thing. She was a dear, dear pal and she was the beating heart of that show, so it felt very strange being on set without her.

“The difficult thing to comprehend is that, if it wasn’t for Covid, there would be a whole other version of this show with Helen in it.

“But she was so private and so f****** brave and courageous. She was inspirational. People throw that word around, but she genuinely was.”

He added: “Her values, the way she dealt with her kids and Damian. She cares about everybody. She’s really funny and really cool, and she had this real warmth. She really cared.

“It’s just… I still can’t believe she’s not here. It doesn’t make sense. I’ve never lost anyone like that – who was young and a friend. It was very confusing.

“But she was magnificent. She was an absolutely magnificent person.”

McCrory played Shelby family matriarch Polly Gray in the BBC series for five seasons and was also known for appearing in the Harry Potter movies and the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.

Cillian Murphy issues update on Peaky Blinders season 6

The forthcoming sixth and final series of Peaky Blinders is reportedly set to be released in February.

Murphy said he is unsure if his character, Tommy Shelby, has been redeemed in the final run but thinks that is what the show’s screenwriter, Steven Knight, was aiming for.

The 45-year-old added that he has loved his time on the show, saying: “It’s only this year that it felt hard.

“I’m still shocked by how it went from this small little show on BBC Two to this worldwide phenomenon.”