Peaky Blinders' Benjamin Zephaniah Dead at 65 After Brain Tumor Battle

Benjamin Zephaniah, who played Jeremiah Jesus on Peaky Blinders, died at age 65 on Dec. 7 after being diagnosed with a brain tumor eight weeks prior. Read costar Cillian Murphy's tribute.

By Elyse Dupre Dec 07, 2023 6:00 PMTags
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The Peaky Blinders cast has lost one of their own. 

Benjamin Zephaniah—who played Jeremiah Jesus on the series—has passed away at the age of 65. 

"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 the 7th December 2023," a post shared to his Instagram account read. "Benjamin was diagnosed with a brain tumor 8 weeks ago." 

The message noted that Zephaniah's wife was "by his side throughout" his health battle and at the time of his passing.

"We shared him with the world," the post continued, "and we know many will be shocked and saddened by this news."

Calling Zephaniah a "true pioneer and innovator" who "gave the world so much," the message then reflected on his life and career.

"Through an amazing career including a huge a body of poems, literature, music, television and radio, Benjamin leaves us with a joyful and fantastic legacy," it added. "Thank you for the love you have shown Professor Benjamin Zephaniah."

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After learning of Zephaniah's death, Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy paid tribute.

"Benjamin was a truly gifted and beautiful human being—a generational poet, writer, musician and activist, A proud Brummie and a Peaky Blinder," the Oppenheimer actor said in a statement to Deadline. "I'm so saddened by this news. RIP."

Tom Jenkins/Getty Images

The show's official Instagram account also expressed its condolences.

"We are so shocked and devastated at the news of the death of our friend Benjamin Zephaniah," the post read. "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. All our love and thoughts are with his family."

In addition to acting in Peaky Blinders, Zephaniah appeared in the 2022 TV series Zen Motoring. His earlier roles included parts in '90s movies and shows like Farendj, The Bill and EastEnders

However, acting was just one part of Zephaniah's life. Born in Birmingham, England in 1958, he could not "remember a time when he was not creating poetry," his website's biography states, and released his first book Pen Rhythm in 1980. 

Over the years, Zephaniah wrote several more books of poems, including Propa Propaganda, Too Black, Too Strong and Talking Turkeys. He also published novels like Face and Refugee Boy and children's books like When I Grow Up.

In addition to being a writer, Zephaniah—who had more than a dozen honorary doctorates—was an activist and a musician, performing with The Benjamin Zephaniah Band.

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