Michael was taken from Polly when he was five years old by the police. He lived with a foster family until he was 17, when he first met Thomas and became introduced to the Shelby family. His adopted mother and family used to refer to him by the name "Henry" for what is assumed to be many years. He appears to be left-handed, or at least signs his name with his left hand.
He has a deceased sister named Anna Gray.
It is also revealed that Michael was abused by a priest during his short time in foster care, which fuels his hatred towards them in series 3.
Series 2 Edit
Michael is slowly introduced to the Shelby family, under the careful watch of his mother Polly. He heads to the races with his cousins Thomas, John, Arthur and Finn when Thomas goes to buy a horse. When Thomas's life is threatened, Michael witnesses one of Arthur's violent outbursts and he nearly beats a man to death. Later, when Polly asks Michael how the trip went, Michael does not inform her of Arthur's actions, and instead tells her that the trip went great.
Michael gets into a bar fight at The Marquis of Lorne when a man refuses to be in the same bar as his friend Isaiah because he is black. When Michael is asked about it by Arthur, he tells Arthur what happened, and John and Arthur proceed to go and destroy the pub for the good name of the Shelby company.
Polly offers Michael money to take a train and move to London, away from the Shelby family, but Michael resists.
Series 3 Edit
Two years later (1924) Edit
Michael is now comfortable in his role as a Peaky Blinder accountant. He is more confident and daring, and is not afraid to be harsh to anyone in order to get the job done. He has a short affair with Charlotte Murray, a maiden that attended Grace and Tommy's wedding.
He gives Charlotte cocaine, and when he has none she questions him. He asks her if she only wanted to come to Birmingham because it was dirty, then laughs and realizes she only wanted to sleep with him because she thought he would be dirty. The two continue to see each other after the wedding. Charlotte is introduced to Tommy later in Michael's office.
When Tommy is in the hospital recovering from Father John Hughes's beating, Michael tells him he knew things about the priest. He knew things Hughes had done back when Michael was a little boy, and these things made Michael want to be the one to kill him, if Tommy will teach him how to shoot. Tommy says shooting is easy, you just point and pull the trigger.
Michael later gets Charlotte pregnant, and John and Arthur tell him he needs to marry the girl. When Michael tells them that Charlotte doesn't want to keep the baby, John tells him about a woman who aborted two babies from women Arthur had impregnated. Michael says Charlotte will want the best, and Arthur says she is the best. Later, when Polly signs a contract adding Ada to Shelby Limited, Michael sets the appointment for the abortion.
Polly confronts Tommy about Michael doing the killing. Tommy tells her that Michael asked him to, and says if he tells her why it will be knowledge he can't take back so its best she doesn't know. Polly tears up as she realizes what her son experienced, and Tommy tells her he told Michael to "put a bullet in that fuckers head." Polly composes herself and says that if Michael kills the priest, she will bring the whole organization down on Tommy.
When the Grace Shelby Institute is opened, the Father orders Tommy to bring the children to his office so he can bring them to confession. As he walks away from Tommy, Michael enters the hall and stares at him, aghast, before the priest enters a room along with a gaggle of children.
Michael kills the Jewish man who came with Alfie during Alfie and Tommy's meeting. He later tells John and Arthur that Tommy said he handled it well, so they allow him and two others to go to the house where Charlie is being held. Arthur tells the two men to kill the priest, but outside the house Michael orders them to stand down. Michael draws on Hughes, but hesitates to shoot and a fight ensues. Michael pulls a knife, the other two men run in guns drawn, but Michael tells them "this bastards mine" and orders them to call Finn to stop the brothers from blowing up the train.Then he plunges his knife into the Father's neck, and brings Charlie home to Ada and Polly. Pol notices the remnants of blood on Michael's face, and Michael walks away, stunned.
After leaving Charlie with the girls, Michael meets with Charlotte at the abortion house. She asks where he'd been, and he tells her there'd been trouble and he can't stay. She begs him to, whispering pleas, but he says its family business, pays the abortionist, and leaves.
At the end of the season, Michael is arrested with the rest of the family. His charge is the murder of Father John Hughes.
Michael loves his mother, but is not afraid of challenging her authority. When Polly also refuses to allow him to work for his cousin, Thomas Shelby, Michael even makes threats so she will take him more seriously. Polly had Michael taken away from her many years ago, hence why here apprehension at letting him get deeper involved in the business. She doesn't want to let him go,he is the only thing she has and if she were to lose him she would not forgive Thomas.
Rather than being afraid of Thomas's power, Michael respects him for it. However, he is still able to go against Thomas's orders without fear or hesitation. He acknowledges Michaels spirit,of which he says "Your definitely Polly's son". Thomas seems to admire Michael for his reckless abandon but also sees potential in Michael to actually make something of himself,throughout series 3 Thomas says how Michael could be something more than a gangster. There is a lot of trust between the two of them, unspoken trust. Thomas let's him kill the priest, not wanting to get in the way of his past with the priest,allowing Michael some closure. He also trust Michael with the legitimate business even though they have only known each other three years. Michael admires Thomas a lot and wants to be like him. Hence why killing the priest was important to him,not only for personal reasons, but also to prove himself more than just a financial advisor.
John is Michael's cousin and the two are the closest in age out of all the Shelby's. In series 2 John looks out for Michael, since he is the youngest of the boys and has only just been re-introduced into the family. John tells Polly not to worry about him, and let him join in with the rest of them when the boys go to a horse auction. Throughout series 2 John is seen play fighting and hugging Michael, in an attempt to make Michael less tense when he is around them.
Into series 3, their relationship changes due to Michael now being a more crucial part to the Shelby Company. Tommy, in John's eyes, is beginning to tell Michael more and he is more involved than John. John likens it to being a 'toy soldier' and being told to 'do this John, do that John', he thinks that Tommy doesn't care about him as much as he does Michael since his relationship with Tommy just seems to be taking orders from him.
All of this means that John begins to show a dislike towards Michael, almost a jealous. Since Michael seems to hold a more important role in the business, as Tommy says himself 'legitimate business is the priority'. John in general becomes more hostile toward Michael. Although Michael wants to fit in with the brothers. John is merely taking his anger that he feels towards Tommy out on Michael.
John's resentment towards Michael wears off through series 3 as Michael begins to take more of a physical role in the business, officially taking part in Peaky Blinder activities and showing more of an interest in illegitimate business. Michael turns to Arthur and John for advice concerning Charlottes abortion and how to shoot a gun. This shows to John and Arthur that Michael is serious about his role in the gang and looks up to them. Also when Michael is on his way to kill the priest John offers him some more advice.Their relationship is complex, John clearly harbours resentment towards Michael as John would like to be viewed by Tommy the same way Michael is.
"In my village, there's this little wishing well. It's made of white bricks, right in the middle of the village green. Everybody says how pretty it is. But I swear to God, if I spend another day in that village, I'm going to blow it up with dynamite. Probably blow my hands off with it, but it'd be worth it. Just to see all those pretty white bricks spread over the pretty village green."
— Michael to Thomas Shelby
Thomas: "You're going to call your mother. You're going to tell her you're getting the next train home. And when you get there, you're going to write a letter to Polly, saying when you're eighteen, you'll come back here and sort things out."
Michael: "I just told you. I make up my own mind."
Thomas: "Polly and I had a bet. One of us bets, you take the money and go. And one of us bets you'd still be here."
Michael: "She wants me to stay."
Thomas: "You know something, Michael? What Polly wants will always be a mystery to me."
Michael: "I've decided. I want to make real money. With you."