Interview with Hannah Khalique-Brown: The Undeclared War

In the near future, the UK General Election will come under threat from hackers with The undeclared war. The thriller series centers on coding prodigy Saara as she works with GCHQ, Britain’s version of the NSA, as she tries to get to the heart of the threat to her country.

Hannah Khalique-Brown leads the cast of The undeclared war alongside Simon Pegg, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Edward Holcroft, Adrian Lester, Alex Jennings, Mark Rylance, Kerry Godliman and German Segal.


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Before the premiere of Peacock, Screen Rant sat down exclusively with star Hannah Khalique-Brown to discuss The undeclared warthe pressures of her first starring role, learning to code, and more.

Screen Rant: I can’t wait to talk about The undeclared war. I didn’t know what to expect upon entering, and it was truly the thrill from start to finish. What about the show that really caught your eye to be a part of?

Hannah Khalique-Brown: I mean, what went wrong, to be honest? When I got this email from my agent, I was like, “Peter Kosminsky!” The lights went out in my head right away. The story, the writing. Peter was mostly the first wake up call for something really exciting, because he’s very well known for making really good television, so I was pretty excited.

Then Saara, as a character, I had an instant connection, an instant obsession, I love her to bits. I didn’t really expect to be a lead on a show so soon so it was really exciting, I was completely excited from the second I read that email.

Since you mention being the lead at the start of your career, did you find that nerve-wracking at all in the production?

Hannah Khalique-Brown: I did it about a week or two before I started. Throughout the audition process, I auditioned for a year, so I kind of got used to the concept and excited about the concept. But then when I got the job, that’s when the impostor syndrome kicked in and about two weeks before that, I had this moment where I was like, ‘I can’t I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I can’t do it. And then the doubt set in. It didn’t last, it lasted about a week and I felt got over it, I talked to my interim coach Laurence Mitchell, he’s amazing and he put me on the straight line, he was like ‘Listen, you’re fine, you’re going to be fine.’

But yeah, I was really nervous right before I started, I was nervous about directing the show, I felt like it was a lot of responsibility. I didn’t want to let anyone down, I didn’t want to let Saara down, because I love her character to death and I wanted to do her justice. But then when you hit the rails, you don’t have time to think about it. I was just like, “Let’s go through the day and do the scenes and try to sleep for a few hours before doing it again the next day.”

What I love about Saara as a character is that there are so many layers to her, but there are also so many forms of representation for her. What was it like for you, exploring those different layers of her through the show?

Hannah Khalique-Brown: Yeah, I love that you notice how complex she is, because she’s a really complicated person and it’s amazing to play a young woman leading a complicated series. You don’t often see a bright young woman with a lot of flaws and a lot of shine and a lot of complicated stuff going on at the center of a show, as opposed to next to it or in the background or in someone else’s service , usually a male, character, so that was pretty special.

I kind of expect that for myself, I want that for me, I want that for my career, I want to play lead roles, I want to play complicated roles, so it was amazing. It’s very layered and there are so many, as you said, different types of representation layered on top of each other. It was very satisfying to play that, mostly portraying a really driven young woman who is overlooked and underappreciated. She derives a lot of satisfaction from proving people wrong, which I share with Saara, I love doing that.

It’s great, it’s great to have that personal connection with a character like that. With all these layers, what do you think was the biggest creative challenge for you to get to the heart of Saara?

Hannah Khalique-Brown: Again, great question. The whole thing was a big challenge, creatively. I think I really developed this feeling of having a personal relationship with the character that is a very deep love and developing that every day when you’re on set, not just in your prep.

It was something very creative for me, to have a conversation with your character every morning when you’re in your trailer before you start and say, “Hey, I love you, I trust you” and she replies “I love you and I trust you” and having almost like a prayer, it was a real creative development that I had. One of the most difficult things creatively is to do it. filming completely out of order, so you film something from episodes five and seven in the morning, then at 11 o’clock you’re on episode one, then you go back to episode six at 6 pm and then at 11 o’clock you do something else.

It’s just wacky, crazy timelines all the time and creatively, you kind of work on this narrative journey with your character and then you shoot it and it’s like, “It’s all messed up” and you’re like, “Where am I ?” [Chuckles] It was a huge creative challenge for me and I was very lucky to have Peter, who is the screenwriter, he created Saara and her story, on set being also the director, because he could guide me and say, “Okay, forget what we Where are we? What is she going through? What just happened? Where is she? What does she need? What does she need? He was such a guide to me and I think the biggest creative challenge was figuring out where I am every day when I’m doing things completely out of order.

One of the things that I always find interesting about a genre like this is all the tech chatter that the actors have to try and squeeze out for each scene. How was it for you to try to memorize and learn all of these very intricate details for these sequences?

Hannah Khalique-Brown: That was one of the things that worried me, actually, and Peter called me a few days after I got the part and said, “Saara is a genius, if you didn’t notice, and she’s a coding prodigy, too.” And I was like, “Yeah,” and then he said, “Well, do you think you should familiarize yourself with this?” and I was like, “Okay.”

I like to take on a challenge in a pretty intense way, so I taught myself to code. I learned JavaScript and C++ and did a few projects with those and watched a reverse engineering lecture and got a little familiar with IDA Pro which is the reverse engineering software that they use at GCHQ. The two months between when I got the role and when I started, I was just coding everyday, so by the time we got on set with a script, I was like a super fan of it, I was like, “I love this stuff.” [Laughs]

I don’t understand anything she’s doing, because the level she’s on is insane and I’m just babystepping, but I was so excited about it. If I could notice that I knew a word or a piece of code, I would say, “Oh, I know what that means!” It would be like 1% of it, but it was so much fun, and I think that really helped, because I think if you’re an actor who goes into it with zero knowledge and you see those big paragraphs of techno gibberish, you’ I’m like, “What am I saying?” I actually really loved it at the end, so I would recommend if anyone does any type of code role, try their hand at some JavaScript, it’s pretty fun.

For my last question, before I go, you share screen time with so many great actors on this show. Is there someone you most enjoyed working with in your entire ensemble?

Hannah Khalique-Brown: I couldn’t say a favorite. [Chuckles] It was pretty crazy the lineup I got to work with for my first big job, I was like, ‘What’s going on? Is this real? This can’t be real. Simon PeggMark Rylance?” That was crazy. I see you have a Hot Fuzz T-shirt with Simon.

It’s actually the whole Cornetto trilogy!

Hannah Khalique-Brown: Oh, the Cornetto trilogy is amazing! It was amazing working with Simon, not only fascinating to see him in a really serious role and blowing everyone away with his performance in that, and I grew up watching his movies, so it was amazing, but also just a lovely man, the kindest and most charming man. Mark, I really learned a lot from Mark, I have pages of notes from every day with Mark, just learning from him, he is a master at what he does and one of the most angelic, sweet people and marvelous of all time. Can’t pick a favorite, but it was amazing.

Synopsis of Undeclared War

Set in 2024 as the UK general election approaches, THE UNDECLARED WAR follows a top-notch team of analysts buried deep within GCHQ, the UK’s version of the NSA, working covertly to ward off a cyber attack on the system. country’s election. .

The cast includes Oscar winner Mark Rylance (“Wolf Hall,” “Bridge of Spies”), Simon Pegg (“Star Trek,” “Mission Impossible”), Adrian Lester (“Riviera,” “Mary Queen of Scots”). ), Alex Jennings (“A Very English Scandal,” “The Crown”), Maisie Richardson-Sellers (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and exciting newcomer Hannah Khalique-Brown.

UNDECLARED WAR is co-produced by Playground and NBCUniversal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group. Peter Kosminsky will executive produce alongside Colin Callender (“Wolf Hall”, “All Creatures Great and Small”) and Noëlette Buckley (“Wolf Hall”, “King Lear”) for Playground. Robert Jones (“Babylon”) is the producer. NBCUniversal Global Distribution handles international sales.

Check out our other interview with The undeclared war star Simon Pegg.

The undeclared war is now streaming on Peacock.

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