Are Saara Parvin and Danny Patrick Based on Real GCHQ Employees?

Peacock’s ‘The Undeclared War’ is set in the GCHQ headquarters, the agency responsible for the UK’s cyber security. The show follows the people working in GCHQ as they try to subvert Russia’s attack to upend their government as well as their entire social and political structure. While it is set in the near future and is purely fictional, the series has its roots in reality with some very important issues at its core.

Apart from the threats, the characters are also portrayed with a realism that allows the audience to see their strengths as well as vulnerabilities, especially when it comes to shouldering the responsibility of saving their country from imminent doom. Saara Parvin and her boss Danny Patrick find themselves in precarious positions at different levels, trying to make sense of the situation while struggling to keep their calm. If you are wondering whether or not they are based on real GCHQ employees, we’ve got you covered.

Is Saara Parvin Based on a Real Person?

Image Credit: Jonathan Birch/Playground Entertainment

No, Saara Parvin is not based on a real GCHQ employee. She was created by writer-director Peter Kosminsky, who wanted to present the protagonist in a fish-out-of-water scenario, which would eventually give her the character development she deserves by the end of the season. He was very particular about keeping her character non-white, and explained the reason behind it in an interview with Channel 4. “GCHQ is located in Cheltenham, which is a very white town – and inevitably, perhaps because of the nature of the computer work many of them do, it draws a largely male workforce. I thought it would be interesting to create a character – a British character of South Asian ethnicity – and to place her into that very white world,” he said.

As for actress Hannah Khalique-Brown, this was the opportunity to learn the things she wouldn’t have otherwise. “I’ve definitely learned that our reality is not the full picture – day to day. I’ve also learned how to code in my research for the role, JavaScript, and C++,” she said. To help her get a sense of the character, Kosminski gave her a detailed background of Saara, most of which doesn’t even appear on the show. “I got pages of information about her childhood, her history, about her life, her memories, her relationships, about her character. It was gold dust, it was like Christmas when I got those documents through,” said Khalique-Brown.

Is Danny Patrick Based on a Real Person?

No, Danny Patrick is not based on a real person. The Chief of Operations at GCHQ in ‘The Undeclared War’ becomes the unlikely father figure to the people who work for him, while also bearing the weight of the responsibility where his every action and mistake can lead to serious consequences for the country. For actor Simon Pegg, playing Danny Patrick turned out to be very educational. “It’s only been about 20 years that the threat of cyber warfare has loomed and learning all about that – about the state of play, how we respond to it, about how we’re ready for it – has been a real education,” he said.

Interestingly, Pegg has a previous connection with GCHQ, indirectly, that is. “As a kid, I grew up in the shadows of GCHQ. Two of my uncles worked there and I never knew what they did because they weren’t allowed to tell me. My brother did all the electrics for the new building but as should be the case, I wasn’t entirely aware of what goes on there or what the job entails but I learned a lot about the fairly nascent cyber society that exists there now,” he added.

While we don’t get to know much about Patrick’s life outside of the GCHQ office, writer-director Peter Kosminsky had a very clear idea of who Patrick was and he forwarded it to Pegg. “Before we started, he gave me a backstory for Danny, which was really detailed in terms of his childhood, how he grew up in foster care, the fact that he’s married and has two sons, and he’s a rugby fan and his kids play rugby, he really wants to be a present father and husband, but he also has the weight of national security on his shoulders, so he finds that stressful,” said the ‘Shaun of the Dead’ actor.

Considering the detail that Kosminsky put into his characters, it is clear that while they might not be based on real people, the writer concocted them for very specific purposes and intentions and made sure to bring them on the screen in a realistic manner.

Read More: Where is The Undeclared War Filmed?