The Peaky Blinders Crew Put In A Lot Of Work To Keep Up With Shelbys' Bad Habits

Anyone who's watched "Peaky Blinders" knows that the Shelby clan lives fast and dangerous. From drugs to alcohol to sex and violence, there's nothing that this family won't try to do at least once to take the edge off of the demons that haunt them. Who can blame them, especially when you take into consideration how many of the men are still trying to reconcile with their trauma from serving in World War I? That said, though, they do embrace several bad habits in the show.

Some of the habits audiences see onscreen in "Peaky Blinders" are reflective of the time period. Some of us are old enough to remember when smoking was still omnipresent. But, before the world knew that cigarettes contributed to lung cancer, nearly everyone smoked. Cocaine, on the other hand, by 1920, had been regulated heavily under the Dangerous Drugs Act. That didn't stop people from using it, though. The Roaring '20s really had a hand in the boom of recreational drug use and excess, so it was nigh impossible to escape.

Over six seasons, you have to wonder how exactly it is the crew can maintain the supply required for the scenes involved. Because, if you've watched all the episodes, you know that each Shelby is engaging in their own vice to the extreme. Here's looking at you, Arthur Shelby. From cigarettes to the cocaine you see onscreen, what work did the crew do to keep up with the Shelbys?

'Back in the day'

Cigarettes are everywhere in "Peaky Blinders," and the lead character, Thomas "Tommy" Shelby, played by Cillian Murphy, burns through them as if it is the very air that he needs to breathe. It's hard to find a scene with Murphy not smoking a cigarette, but he just shrugs off this particular routine of Tommy's. "People did smoke all day [back then] and it just became a Tommy thing," Cillian explained to Independent of his character's habit. 

It became a running joke between Murphy and series creator Steve Knight, with Knight frequently joking that he was only allotted five a day for scenes. The cigarettes we see onscreen are actually herbal, made up entirely of roses. Curiosity got the better of him and, around the time he was promoting the third season of "Peaky Blinders," Murphy revealed that he had asked the prop guys to supply him with the numbers: "I asked the prop guys to count how many I smoked just out of interest, and they think it's something like 3,000."

The transition to herbal cigarettes has been a popular mainstay in TV and film, especially for shows that are set in the past. The show "Mad Men" instantly comes to mind, not just for the smoking, but recalling how they promoted their use of herbal cigarettes at the time. It's a healthier workaround for the cast and, with more people switching to herbal, something easier for crews to get their hands on for props.

Tea and a lil' vitamin B

As for the whiskey seen onscreen, don't worry. No one's liver is in danger (but possibly their bladders). The crew relies on tea as a substitute for the alcohol the characters drink. Tea is a standard stand-in for dark liquors needed for film productions. Again, a safe substitute to make sure that the cast aren't harmed or compromising their health whilst shooting. Though, I would be concerned about frequent trips to the bathroom regardless.

As for the cocaine, substitutions have evolved over the years. Nowadays, sets usually use a vitamin B powder as a stand-in for cocaine. Ironically, vitamin B is generally used as a cutting agent for cocaine – one of those "the more you know" kind of factoids. So, if you were worried about Paul Anderson's frequent snorting of "Tokyo" aka cocaine throughout the show, don't worry. He's fine. He's just loaded full of good ol' vitamin B.

The final season of "Peaky Blinders" aired earlier this year, marking the end of the Shelby clan's journey. While a movie is in the works, the crew can at least get a break from having to supply the large amounts of cigarettes, booze, and other various recreational shenanigans to keep up with the Shelbys and their excessive bad habits. Now you know the tips and tricks of how the props department handles keeping things safe for the actors interacting with these items on set of the "Peaky Blinders" and other TV and film productions.