EXCLUSIVE: Here’s a huge transatlantic project for you: The team behind Golden Globe-winning BBC/PBS drama Wolf Hall, including Oscar winner Mark Rylance, are reuniting to make cybersecurity series The Undeclared War for NBCUniversal streamer Peacock and UK broadcaster Channel 4.
The six-part series is written and directed by seven-time BAFTA winner Peter Kosminsky and is housed at Emmy-winning producer Colin Callender’s UK and New York-based production outfit Playground. NBCUniversal International Studios is co-producing.
Rylance, who picked his Oscar for Steven Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies, will star alongside another of Britain’s finest exports: Mission Impossible and Shaun Of The Dead actor Simon Pegg. Other cast includes Adrian Lester (Riviera), Maisie Richardson-Sellers (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Alex Jennings (The Crown), and newcomer Hannah Khalique-Brown.
The Undeclared War takes place in the post-pandemic world of 2024 against the backdrop of an upcoming British general election involving the UK’s first Black Conservative prime minister (Lester). It tracks a leading team of analysts at the heart of the UK’s NSA-style spy agency GCHQ as they attempt to ward off a cyber-attack on the country’s electoral system.
Pegg features as Danny Patrick, GCHQ’s head of operations, while Rylance plays John Yeabsley, a GCHQ old hand, who is brought back into the fold to support former colleagues in combatting the heightened threat level. Khalique-Brown is Saara Parvan, a young student doing work experience in the GCHQ Malware Department, while other characters include Kathy Freeman (Richardson-Sellers), an American cyber-analyst on attachment at GCHQ from the NSA, and GCHQ head David Neal (Jennings).
Kosminsky has been researching the series for three years, gaining access to intelligence experts in both the UK and U.S. The series is fertile ground in an age when elections have scarcely been more vulnerable to cyber warfare, be it a direct attack on an electoral system or disinformation campaigns, such as Russia meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Kosminsky wrote four of the six episodes, while The Salisbury Poisonings duo Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson also collaborated on the series, as first revealed by Deadline last June. Amelia Spencer (Dead Birds) has also written on 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 is based deep within the least-known arm of the UK’s intelligence infrastructure, GCHQ,” said Kosminsky. “The story we’re now able to tell casts an extraordinary, revelatory light on the hot, undeclared war taking place right now in the world’s newest and most invisible domain of conflict — cyber.” Callender added: “The Undeclared War is a stunning cautionary tale that brings to life a world never seen before on television or in film.”
Channel 4 head of drama Caroline Hollick described it as a “truly momentous series,” while Lisa Katz, president of scripted content at NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said it will “keep viewers at the edge of their seat.”
NBCUniversal Global Distribution is handling international sales for the series.