EXCLUSIVE: Here’s a huge transatlantic project for you: The team behind the Golden Globe-winning BBC / PBS drama Wolf Hall, including Oscar winner Mark Rylance, is getting back together to create the cybersecurity series The Undeclared War for NBCUniversal streamer Peacock and British broadcaster Channel 4 to produce.
The six-part series was written and directed by seven-time BAFTA winner Peter Kosminsky and is located in the British and New York production outfit Playground of Emmy award winner Colin Callender. NBCUniversal International Studios is a co-producer.
Rylance, who picked his Oscar for Steven Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies, will star alongside another of Britain’s top exports: Mission Impossible and Shaun Of The Dead actor Simon Pegg. Other actors include Adrian Lester (Riviera), Maisie Richardson-Sellers (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Alex Jennings (The Crown) and newcomer Hannah Khalique-Brown.
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The undeclared war is taking place in the post-pandemic world of 2024 amid the upcoming UK general election that will bring out Britain’s first Black Conservative Prime Minister (Lester). It is tracking a senior team of analysts at the heart of the NSA-style UK spy agency GCHQ as it attempts to fend off a cyber attack on the country’s electoral system.
Pegg plays Danny Patrick, GCHQ’s operations manager, while Rylance plays John Yeabsley, an HCHQ veteran who is brought back into the group to help former coworkers tackle the heightened threat level. Khalique-Brown is Saara Parvan, a young student who gained work experience in the GCHQ malware department. Other characters include Kathy Freeman (Richardson Sellers), an American cyber analyst at GCHQ from the NSA, and GCHQ boss David Neal (Jennings).
Kosminsky has been researching the series for three years and is given access to intelligence experts in the UK and the US. The series is fertile ground at a time when elections were hardly any more vulnerable to cyberwar, be it a direct attack on an electoral system or disinformation campaigns like Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Kosminsky wrote four of the six episodes, while The Salisbury Poisonings duo Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson also worked on the series, as . first revealed last June. Amelia Spencer (Dead Birds) also wrote about the show, which was first announced in 2018 when it was conceived as a 10-part series for Channel 4. Executive producers are Kosminsky alongside Callender and Noëlette Buckley for Playground. Robert Jones (Babylon) is the producer.
“The series sits deep in the least known branch of the UK’s intelligence infrastructure, the GCHQ,” said Kosminsky. “The story that we can tell now throws an extraordinary, enlightening light on the hot, undeclared war that is currently taking place in the world’s newest and most invisible conflict domain – cyber.” Callender added, “The undeclared war is a breathtaking cautionary story that brings to life a world never before seen on television or in film.”
Channel 4 Drama Director Caroline Hollick described it as a “really meaningful series” while Lisa Katz, president of scripted content for NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said it will “keep viewers on the edge of their seats.”
NBCUniversal Global Distribution takes care of the international distribution of the series.