(CNN)Irish actor Cillian Murphy has said it was "very strange" to film the final series of "Peaky Blinders" without Helen McCrory, as he remembered his "brave" and "magnificent" former co-star.
Murphy, who plays protagonist Tommy Shelby in the hit series, said in an interview with Esquire on Tuesday that McCrory was the "beating heart" of the show.
McCrory died of cancer in April 2021 at the age of 52. The critically-acclaimed actress was married to "Homeland" actor Damian Lewis and the couple shared two children.
She played Aunt Polly in the BBC gangster drama, which also streams on Netflix.
Speaking with Esquire, Murphy said: "She was a dear, dear pal and she was the beating heart of that show, so it felt very strange being on set without her."
Filming of the sixth series had been due to begin when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, setting the plans back two years.
Murphy said: "The difficult thing to comprehend is that, if it wasn't for Covid, there would be a whole other version of this show with Helen in it. But she was so private and so f**king brave and courageous."
He added: "I still can't believe she's not here. It doesn't make sense. I've never lost anyone like that -- who was young and a friend. It was very confusing. But she was magnificent. She was an absolutely magnificent person."
As well as playing Aunt Polly in "Peaky Blinders," McCrory starred as Narcissa Malfoy in the "Harry Potter" franchise.
She also had a successful stage acting career in London's West End, playing characters including Lady Macbeth and Medea.
Announcing her passing in April, Lewis said: "She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly."
Murphy, who has appeared in the movie "28 Days Later" and "The Dark Knight" trilogy, will also star as the lead in the upcoming Christopher Nolan biopic "Oppenheimer" -- a movie about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American physicist who developed the atomic bomb. Filming, he told Esquire, will begin this month.
A release date for the final "Peaky Blinders" season has not been confirmed but the series is expected to air later this month.