'McCrory's Absence Leaves a Chasm'
- Peaky Blinders dedicated its final season opener to actress Helen McCrory, who passed away from breast cancer last year.
- McCrory played the show’s matriarch Polly Gray, one of the leaders of the show’s titular gang, the Peaky Blinders. Gray’s death was written into the season’s debut episode.
- McCrory kept her cancer battle private, and fans were shocked to learn of her passing. Fans and critics praised the show’s tribute to the late actress.
The period crime drama has completed five seasons, and its sixth season, which premiered in the UK on February 27 (it will be on US Netflix at a later date), will be its last. The first episode of the sixth season was dedicated to actress Helen McCrory, who passed away from last year from breast cancer at 52-years-old.Read More
The actress played Polly Gray in Peaky Blinders, the matriarch of the Shelby family and one of the most powerful voices in the show’s titular criminal gang, the Peaky Blinders. The death of McCrory’s character was written into the season’s debut episode. The Shelby family was rocked by their loss.
The episode’s closing credits featured a tribute to the late actress. For critics and fans alike, the loss of McCrory and her character was deeply felt. Ed Cumming of The Independent wrote, “McCrory’s absence leaves a chasm”—she “will be missed terribly.”
The Times writer Carol Midgley praised the show’s handling of McCrory’s passing. Midgley wrote that the season opener addressed McCrory’s absence “with class, something McCrory had in bucketloads.” In his review for The Telegraph, Chris Bennion awarded the episode four stars and called it a “classy curtain raiser.”
Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight called McCrory’s death a tragedy in an interview at the season premiere in Birmingham. “After she’d gone we knew she wanted this thing to continue and we hope we have continued in a respectful and appropriate way,” he said. “Moving forward she will always be part of Peaky.”
Keeping a Cancer Battle Private
McCrory, who also played Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, kept her cancer battle private. As a result, her passing came as a shock to many, as she had chosen to keep her breast cancer battle private. Health is a deeply personal matter, and it’s up to you – and you alone – to determine who has the right and privilege to know about your diagnoses.
It’s important to do what feels right to you after your diagnosis, and not cave in to any pressure to share your diagnosis with others before you’re ready or to share it more widely than you’d like. You have autonomy over your health and the sharing of any news related to it.
Dr. Marianna Strongin, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Strong In Therapy Psychology, tells SurvivorNet that whether someone shares this heavy news is their personal preference. “I recommend sharing, I’m a therapist,” Strongin says with a laugh, “but to whom and how many people is up to the person [with cancer].”
There are plenty of people, like McCrory, who have chosen not to share their cancer battle publicly. While Strongin says that she encourages sharing, she also recognizes there’s also a personality factor at play when it comes to whether a person shares this deeply personal news; some people are more willing to share, and some are just more private, Strongin adds. The difference, she says, is what’s the process in sharing versus not sharing.
Strongin mentions one of her patients who has explored the reasons why she didn’t tell people about her cancer diagnosis. For the patient, Strongin says, “it was coming to terms with the identity of being sick.”
Supporting A Spouse Through Cancer
McCrory’s partner, actor Damian Lewis of Billions and Homeland, took time away from acting while his wife was sick and after her passing. The support of a spouse is crucial during any cancer battle, especially when a loved one chooses to make that battle private. Jill Kargman opted to keep her breast cancer battle private after making a previous battle with melanoma very public.
The author, creator, and star of the book-turned-Bravo-series Odd Mom Out tells SurvivorNet that the response she got when she shared the news of her first diagnosis led to her decision to keep things quiet the second time around.
“I got a lot of support from my family and friends. With my double mastectomy, I didn’t tell anyone [outside my family] except my bridesmaids. I have my five best friends, who are like my sisters,” explains Kargman. “And so I only told them because when I had my melanoma, I told a lot of people, and there were like 20 flower arrangements and food drop-offs, and it just felt a little dramatic, and I didn’t like that role of the victim-y patient person. I think some people appreciate that and take comfort in it. Where it just made me uncomfortable.”
Contributing: Anne McCarthy