At a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues and a politically fragile U.K. is dealing with daily crises, Peter Kosminsky’s “The Undeclared War” is timely and prescient.
Set in a post-pandemic 2024 in the run up to a British general election, the series follows a team of analysts at GCHQ (the U.K.’s version of the NSA) secretly working to ward off a series of cyber attacks by Russia. Thrust in the middle of it is 21-year-old intern Saara Parvin who finds herself in the middle of an online high stakes battle.
The lead role of Parvin, in a cast that also includes stalwarts Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg and Adrian Lester, is played by rising star Hannah Khalique-Brown. It is her first major role after appearing in a few episodes of the BBC’s “Doctors.”
“The prescience of almost everything in the show is just bit terrifying, really. None of us could have predicted what was going to happen with Ukraine, and so many other things like the Boris Johnson vote, the power struggle that’s happening right now before our eyes too,” Khalique-Brown told Variety. Johnson was ousted as British Prime Minister in July and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and current Foreign Secretary Liz Truss are engaged in a bitter fight to succeed him.
“Anything that happens either has happened or could happen in this series. It’s shocking, so much of it has become really relevant and really, eerily similar to real life,” says Khalique-Brown.
While preparing for a role Khalique-Brown likes to construct and live a persona. “The way I like to work is to build a human life that’s not me, it’s other than me, and color it in, in forensic detail, build their memories and live their memories,” the actor says. “They have a whole history, a whole life. The way I work is I have to paint that into life completely. It can’t just be me saying the words — it has to be a real human being. And once I’ve built that character, I start to form a relationship with them, and start to love them and trust them and have conversations with them.”
The series premiered on Channel 4 in the U.K. and debuts Aug. 18 on Peacock in the U.S. The actor says that she was “absolutely thrilled to bits with the response in the U.K.” and is looking forward to its U.S. bow.
“It’s a very British show but it touches on things that the American audience will be really fascinated by and interested in,” says Khalique-Brown. “It’s a very gripping, thrilling story. So even if people aren’t in it for the stuff about Russia and British government systems, they’ll be in it for the story.”
The series ends on a cliffhanger. “I think it makes sense for there to be another season, it doesn’t make sense to end on a cliffhanger forever,” says Khalique-Brown, adding that she hopes there is another season, but does not have that information yet.
Next up for the actor is “a very exciting, highly anticipated feature film,” due in 2023, which she is not allowed to talk about yet. She also plans to do more work in theater and wants to play at London’s Donmar Warehouse, Almeida Theatre, National Theatre and The Bridge.
“I don’t want to ever stop doing it. People often abandon theater for screen because it doesn’t pay very well, but I really love it,” says Khalique-Brown. “I would love to do something in New York because I really want to live there for six months. So if New York calls, I will answer.”