Jack Nelson From 'Peaky Blinders' Is Based on a Kennedy Patriarch

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
Jack Nelson From 'Peaky Blinders' Is Based on a Kennedy Patriarch
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Who can kill Tommy Shelby? Many men have tried. How many men? To quote the American poet/rapper 50 Cent: “Many men, many, many, many, many men.” First there were the Lees, another small-time crime family—back when the Shelbys were small time. There was Billy Kimber. Then Inspector Campbell. Then Father John Hughes. Then Luca Changretta. Then the Billy Boys. Then the IRA. Then Michael. (And at all times, seemingly: Alfie Solomons.) There have been Gypsies, Russians, Italians, Scotts, Irish republicans, fascists, and even Shelbys.

In Season 6 of Peaky Blinders, we add another to the list: Jack Nelson. It’s time for the Americans to take a shot at the king.

Nelson emerges as a prominent player early into the season. He’s introduced as Michael’s uncle—"Uncle Jack"—the father of Michael’s wife, Gina Gray (Anya Taylor-Joy). Nelson is of Irish decent. His clan, we learn, competes with both the Jewish and Italian families for distribution control over Boston. While he has a firm grasp on the west side, events precipitated by Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) could disrupt the power balance. Tommy tells Michael—and then later Gina—to take a proposition to Nelson: act as the Shelby’s opium distributor in Boston, or else Tommy will supply Boston’s Jewish families.

The proposition sets up one of the major tensions of the final season with Michael vowing from the beginning to double cross Tommy and kill him—avenging Polly’s death.

Nelson, however, takes a more insidious route to take down Tommy.

Was Jack Nelson a Real Person?

Photo credit: Netflix/BBC
Photo credit: Netflix/BBC

Unlike some of the other historical figures this season, including Oswald Mosley, Diana Mosley, and Winston Churchill, Jack Nelson is not a real-life person. The Irish gangster seems to be an invention of the writers. We don’t learn much about Nelson’s backstory, though he does say the first man he killed was a priest. He also admires Tommy, because Nelson claims their stories are similar—men who came from little, but built empires.

Who is Jack Nelson Based On?

Photo credit: AFP
Photo credit: AFP

Show creator Steven Knight has said that Nelson is based on Joseph Kennedy Sr., the father of John F. Kennedy. While there are some accounts that Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. sold liquor during prohibition—putting him in contact with criminal organizations—the family (obviously) and Kennedy’s biographer, David Nasaw, dismissed any accounts of the family patriarch participating in bootlegging or smuggling.

Kenedy’s father, however, was in the whiskey importation business in Boston. After Prohibition, the Kennedy family, which had already accrued political power, signed exclusive contracts to import whiskey and gin from England. That was 1933, the year Peaky Blinders Season 6 begins. The Kennedys sold the franchise later for an estimated $8.2 million—the equivalent of $100 million today.

Who Plays Jack Nelson?

Photo credit: Eamonn M. McCormack
Photo credit: Eamonn M. McCormack

Nelson is portrayed by the Australian actor James Frecheville. He is perhaps best known for his teenage role in David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom.

You Might Also Like