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The Undeclared War star explains show’s Matrix-style ‘Code World’

Hannah Khalique-Brown plays GCHQ intern Saara Parvin in the Channel 4 series, opposite Mark Rylance and Simon Pegg.

Hannah Khalique-Brown as Saara Parvin in The Undeclared War
Channel 4
Published: Wednesday, 29th June 2022 at 3:32 pm
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Hannah Khalique-Brown, the lead star in Channel 4 thriller The Undeclared War, has unpacked the show's "surreal" depictions of hacking that help visualise the work of coders.

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In the series, Khalique-Brown's character Saara is a genius 21-year-old hacker who joins the GCHQ Malware Department on work experience the same day the country falls victim to a cyberattack.

The viewer first meets Saara on a dream-like treasure hunt, abseiling down walls, jumping into the sea, and even flying upside down to open a door.

However, this is quickly revealed to be 'Code World', visualising the skill and ingenuity needed for computer hacking, with similarities to sequences in both The Matrix and Inception.

"The 'Code World' - we call them Code World sequences - are kind of like surreal landscape[s] that are the physical manifestation of what's going on in Saara's mind and in the code that she's working on," Khalique-Brown explained in an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com.

Mark Rylance in The Undeclared War on Channel 4
Mark Rylance and Hannah Khalique-Brown in The Undeclared War Channel 4

"I love Code World. And I've never read anything like it. I think this is the first time that anyone in TV or film has actually tried to show it [coding] in anything other than ones and zeros on the screen. [It's] so impenetrable for a viewer to relate to just code on the screen," she added.

Khalique-Brown revealed that reading the scripts featuring 'Code World' scenes were her way into the world of hacking - before she learnt to code for the role.

"Reading them [those scenes], I loved it. Before I did this job, I didn't know anything about code. I didn't, anything at all, really nothing. I hadn't ever learned any code before," she said.

Khalique-Brown continued: "Then one way into really understanding it was through Code World.

"I've mentioned this before, but I learned to code for the role, because I knew that I had to actually understand some of it, [because Saara] is a genius, and I know nothing. So I did teach myself two programming languages, worked on some projects and did a hacking lecture course.

"But the actual understanding of, like the framework of her mind when she's working, came through reading about Code World and reading those scenes in the script. And it is just so good. It's such a great way to understand it... I loved it. I think it was genius."

The Undeclared War will start at 9pm on 30th June 2022 on Channel 4. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide or visit our dedicated Drama hub for the latest news.

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