Small Light, Big Expectations

Joe Cole, one of the stars of the BBC’s smash hit Peaky Blinders, tells The Rake how he hopes to do justice to his toughest ever role — as the hero of an Anne Frank-inspired second world war drama.
  • fashion director Grace Gilfeather

  • by Charlie Thomas

  • photography Tomo Brejc

It didn’t take long for Joe Cole’s stock to rise. The London-born actor began his professional career in 2010, yet within three years he was starring in the BBC’s Peaky Blinders. The show, created by Steven Knight, became one of the U.K.’s biggest television exports, propelling a number of young actors, including Cole, into the spotlight. It was violent, emotional, and at times haunting, with protagonists lamenting the loss of a family member in one scene before ruthlessly attacking another in the next. Cole, as John Shelby, was able to move deftly between intimidation, charm and stoicism. “When they call action, you just find yourself in it,” he says, by way of explanation. “You’re just in it.”


June 2023


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