Belfast actor Packy Lee is still loving life as Tommy Shelby’s right-hand man Johnny Dogs in hit drama series Peaky Blinders, eight years after making the role his own.
The 36-year-old was originally only supposed to be involved in one day of filming, but is now five seasons deep in the world of post-First World War gangland Birmingham.
His gypsy character is often relied on by Peaky Blinders gang leader Tommy Shelby, played by Cork actor Cillian Murphy.
“Everybody would like to have a friend like Johnny Dogs,” Packy Lee said, during an appearance on UTV Life with Pamela Ballantine.
“And I’m bearing that in mind when I’m trying to play it and that’s how I’ve played it from day one. To be a friend, a loyal friend, and to be as close as that – that’s the only way to play it.”
- VIDEO: Peaky Blinders star Packy Lee on UTV Life
The show has proved hugely popular, not just with fans, but also with a long list of actors hopeful of securing a role.
And little wonder, given the strength of the writing, cinematography, and ensemble cast.
Across the five seasons to date, the show has starred a wealth of talent – from regulars like Helen McCrory as the matriarchal Polly Gray, aunt to the Shelby siblings, and Paul Anderson as the volatile but oh-so-watchable Arthur Shelby, to recurring stars like Tom Hardy as Alfie Solomons, Paddy Considine as Father John Hughes, and Tommy Flanagan as the erstwhile father to the Shelby clan.
“Eight years we’ve been doing this, so we’ve become one big family,” Packy Lee said, of the close-knit cast.
He also hailed the show’s star Cillian Murphy as “the man” and was full of enthusiasm for working alongside the acclaimed actor.
“He’s very chilled, but when he puts it on … It’s amazing to watch,” he said.
“But it’s also amazing to be part of. And he leads by example, so you’ve no reason not to hit the bar that you need to hit.”
The gritty series never shies away from the violence encountered by those whose stories it seeks to tell and, as Packy Lee puts it: “It’s a family drama, but it’s a ruthless family drama.”
He added, of that line the characters walk – and sometimes cross: “We’re bad guys at times, but we’re bad guys fighting bad guys.”
The fifth series was much-anticipated, but speculation also runs rife around whether or not a Peaky Blinders movie could be in the pipeline.
For now though, the show’s stars are just continuing to enjoy the buzz among its fans.
“As a young lad from west Belfast, I’m just enjoying,” Packy Lee - whose forthcoming projects include Netflix series The Witcher, alongside the likes of Henry Cavill – said.