Mark Rylance and Simon Pegg will be the headliners in The Undeclared War, a new British cyber-thriller produced by Channel 4 and NBCUniversal for the Peacock streaming service in the US. Other cast members include Adrian Lester, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Alex Jennings, and Hannah Khalique-Brown. The six-part series will be written and directed by BAFTA winner Peter Kosminsky under producer Colin Callender's company Playground. NBCUniversal International Studios will be co-producing.
The Undeclared War is set in 2024 during a British general election involving the UK's first Black Conservative prime minister (Lester). It features a leading team of analysts at the heart of the UK's intelligence and surveillance agency GCHQ as they attempt to fight off a cyber-attack on the country's electoral system. It's not hard to figure out this was inspired by what happened during the Brexit vote back in 2016. Pegg will play as Danny Patrick, head of operations at GCHQ, while Rylance plays John Yeabsley, a GCHQ veteran who is brought back into the fold to support former colleagues in combatting the heightened threat level. Khalique-Brown will play Saara Parvan, a young student doing work experience in the GCHQ Malware Department, while Maisie Richardson-Sellers will play Kathy Freeman, an American cyber-analyst on attachment at GCHQ from the NSA, and GCHQ head David Neal (Alex 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 writing duo Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson, and Amelia Spencer of Dead Birds are also in the writer's room. The show was first announced in 2018 as a 10-part series for Channel 4.
"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," and Lisa Katz, president of scripted content at NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said it will "keep viewers at the edge of their seat."