‘Peaky Blinders’ family mourns Benjamin Zephaniah, actor and poet who died at 65

Benjamin Zephaniah on the grounds of Peterborough Cathedral on September 13th 2021 in Cambridgeshire.
Benjamin Zephaniah, a poet and writer who appeared in the Netflix series “Peaky Blinders,” has died. He was 65.
(Tom Jenkins / Getty Images)

Netflix’s hit series “Peaky Blinders” is mourning one of its own: British poet, writer and actor Benjamin Zephaniah, who died Thursday.

“We are so shocked and devastated at the news of the death of our friend Benjamin Zephaniah,” a statement shared to the show’s official Instagram account said. “He was a much-loved, instrumental, and influential part of the Peaky Blinders family from the very start, as well as to the creative community at large.”

The “Peaky Blinders” account, which also sent well wishes to the writer’s family, shared a black-and-white photo of Zephaniah on the set of the show wearing a suit and a wide-brimmed hat. Zephaniah appeared as street preacher Jeremiah Jesus in 14 episodes of the six-season drama. “Peaky Blinders” ended in April 2022.

Series star Cillian Murphy, who portrayed Thomas Shelby, said his late co-star “was a truly gifted and beautiful human being” in a statement shared Thursday with The Times.

He added: “A proud Brummie and a Peaky Blinder. I’m so saddened by this news. RIP.”

It’s just past 9 a.m. and the newsroom already is abuzz here at the British Broadcasting Corp.

Oct. 25, 1993

News of Zephaniah’s death broke early Thursday morning as his Instagram account released a statement mourning the loss of “our beloved Husband, Son and Brother.” Zephaniah died of a brain tumor — eight weeks after his diagnosis — with his wife by his side, the post said.


“Benjamin was a true pioneer and innovator, he gave the world so much,” the statement continued. “Through an amazing career including a huge body of poems, literature, music, television and radio, Benjamin leaves us with a joyful and fantastic legacy.”

Zephaniah, who was born and raised in Birmingham, England, gained a following for his poetry collections and books, including “Pen Rhythm” (published in 1980 at age 22), “Rasta Time in Palestine” and “Too Black, Too Strong.” The writer was a self-identified anarchist whose views on racism, and the British legal system and monarchy, influenced his work. In 2003, Zephaniah rejected an Order of the British Empire (OBE) honor from British royals because of the monarchy’s history of slavery, BBC reported.

The multiple Emmy-Award-winning writer-producer and liberal political activist revolutionized prime-time television in the 1970s with groundbreaking, socially relevant situation comedies such as ‘All in the Family,’ ‘Maude’ and ‘The Jeffersons.’ He was 101.

Dec. 6, 2023

The British artist was also a musician who released several albums, including the spoken-word “Reggae Head” in 2006 and 2021‘s “Rasta.” In addition to “Peaky Blinders,” Zephaniah appeared in TV series “Zen Motoring,” “The Bill,” “EastEnders” and “The Comic Strip Presents.”

In 2018, Zephaniah published his autobiography, “The Life And Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah.”

“Writing is very special ... to write down your thoughts and your personal history and then have them put in the public domain is fantastically special,” he said in a video recently shared to his Instagram. “I never take this privilege for granted.”