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Irish star's tribute Beautiful, sexy, soft, fearless - Packy Lee hails his dear friend and Peaky Blinder's co-star Helen McCrory

Helen could play anything and she was shining light of the screen

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The beautiful Helen McCrory

The beautiful Helen McCrory

The beautiful Helen McCrory

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Peaky Blinders star Packy Lee is 'absolutely gutted' by the death of his close friend and co-star Helen McCrory.

The mother-of-two and wife of actor Damian Lewis died on Friday aged just 52 after a courageous battle with cancer, leaving a trail of broken hearts in her wake.

Best known for her role as ruthless matriarch Polly Gray in the cult TV show, Packy admits she still gave him goosebumps when she walked on set.

"Helen was such an energy. Just hearing her name being called on set used to give me goosebumps because you knew you were about to witness something spectacular.

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Helen McCrory with husband Damian Lewis

Helen McCrory with husband Damian Lewis

Helen McCrory with husband Damian Lewis

"Working with her, watching her get to the final moment of a scene was magical," Packy told the Sunday World yesterday.

"She could be anything. She was beautiful, she was hard, she was sexy and she was soft, so fearless, so raw yet romantic. She could play anything. I think she put all of those characteristics into Pol.

"In life she was smart, kind, intelligent, charismatic and a beautiful person who will be sorely missed,"

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Helen McCrory with co-star Packy Lee.

Helen McCrory with co-star Packy Lee.

Helen McCrory with co-star Packy Lee.

The Belfast actor, who is still filming the hit show alongside his heartbroken colleagues, says they have lost the head of their TV family in life and on screen.

"Helen was the head of the family, the family we created on set after working together for so long, she was the very heart of it. She was an inspiration and because of that and the fact we all loved her we will make sure we can do the best we can to finish this series for her.

"She was a very strong woman, a truly amazing person and I don't need to exaggerate to mean any of that. She was just an amazing person, I will miss her terribly."

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Packy met Helen on the first day of filming Peaky Blinders almost 10 years ago when he took the role as Traveller Johnny Dogs.

"She was a very good friend to me, a relationship both professionally and personally I was lucky to have and will never, ever forget. I will cherish everything she has taught me and I will cherish all the memories, some very funny memories.

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Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy.

Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy.

Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy.

"Peaky Blinders is 10 years in October. I was there day one of day one with Helen, Paul, Cillian, Joe and Sam Neill. We gelled straight away. I have known Helen for those 10 years and she was always just incredible.

"Her kids were about the same age as mine growing up so we would share family stories, not just me but the rest of the cast and crew. Peaky's is a family saga and it is with both love and joy that I can say we, cast and crew, became a close-knit family too. She is a massive loss to us all but especially Damian and the kids. We are all thinking and praying for them.".

The father-of-three says the Peaky Blinders family have been comforting each other during this dark hour.

"We are absolutely heartbroken, we have all been in contact, talking with each other and we know t will just take time.

"The talent we are losing in Helen is massive. She was a wonder to watch, she was fantastic in between takes, she was fantastic on and off set, she made scenes gel perfectly. Helen and Damian (Lewis) are two of the best actors of my generation.

"This will take time to process. You have to remember we are still filming, so to do that without Helen will be very hard. What this has made me realise is that you should enjoy as much as you can with your loved ones."

Packy is not the only one struggling with the shock news.

Cillian Murphy said his Peaky Blinders co-star was a "beautiful, caring, funny compassionate human being".

Murphy, who plays Tommy Shelby in the crime drama, said: "I am broken-hearted to lose such a dear friend. Helen was a beautiful, caring, funny, compassionate human being. She was also a gifted actor - fearless and magnificent. She elevated and made humane every scene, every character she played.

"It was a privilege to have worked with this brilliant woman, to have shared so many laughs over the years. I will dearly miss my pal. My love and thoughts are with Damian and her family."

Also paying tribute, Monaghan actress Charlene McKenna, who is currently filming for Peaky Blinders, posted on Instagram: "I can't tell you how much I looked up to #helenmccrory as an actress. I FEASTED on her performances and I know her legacy lives ON."

Northern Ireland-born Sam Neill, who also starred in Peaky Blinders, tweeted: "Goodbye. Devastated my friend #HelenMcCrory died today. That brilliant woman - the greatest of actors. I so loved our time on #PeakyBlinders. She was witty, kind, skilled. Riotously funny... and so damn cool. So young. Heartbroken for Damian + her family."

Actress Aisling Bea, who also starred with McCrory in the 2020 ITV drama Quiz, said: "Utterly heartbreaking, what a loss. Every actor looks & looked up to Helen McCrory - so brilliant and gripping"

Helen Mirren wrote on Instagram: "A great actress and a great person. This is so very very sad."

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