The pair appeared together in the BBC period crime drama, with Murphy playing protagonist Tommy Shelby and Zephaniah as Jeremiah “Jimmy” Jesus, a Jamaican-born street preacher and friend of Shelby’s.
“Benjamin was a truly gifted and beautiful human being – a generational poet, writer, musician and activist. A proud Brummie and a Peaky Blinder,” said Murphy in a statement, (via Deadline). “I’m so saddened by this news. RIP.”
Both Peaky Blinders‘ official Instagram account and director Anthony Byrne also paid tribute, writing: “We are so shocked and devastated at the news of the death of our friend Benjamin Zephaniah.
“He was much a much-loved, instrumental and influential part of the Peaky Blinders family from the very start, as well to the creative community at large.”
Benjamin Zephaniah and Cillian Murphy in ‘Peaky Blinders’. Credit: BBC
The Birmingham-born poet – most famous for his works which often touched upon topics such as race and the British legal system – died on Thursday. He had been diagnosed with a brain tumour eight weeks ago, his family shared.
“It is with great sadness and regret that we announce the death of our beloved Husband, Son, and Brother in the early hours of this morning,” read a statement on his social media channels.
“Benjamin’s wife was by his side throughout and was with him when he passed. We shared him with the world and we know many will be shocked and saddened by this news. Benjamin was a true pioneer and innovator, he gave the world so much.
“Through an amazing career, including a huge body of poems, literature, music, television, radio, Benjamin leaves us with a joyful and fantastic legacy.”
In 2003, Zephaniah famously turned down an OBE, writing: “Benjamin Zephaniah OBE – no way Mr Blair, no way Mrs Queen. I am profoundly anti-empire.” He also said he had begged Tony Blair to meet him to discuss crime in Britain and told the Queen to stop “going on about the empire”.
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