Actress Hannah Khalique-Brown on New Channel 4 Drama ‘The Undeclared War’

By Ellie Smith

2 years ago

Meet the star set to play Saara Parvin on the show

We sit down with The Undeclared War’s Hannah Khalique-Brown to discuss what we can expect from the new show, behind-the-scenes stories, social media and how to wind down after a busy day of filming.

Hannah Khalique-Brown on The Undeclared War

What can you tell us about The Undeclared War?

It’s hard to know where to start – it’s such a complex show! The show follows this astonishingly clever young woman as she enters the most life-changing, critical and exhilarating few weeks of her life, and an equally mad moment in national and global politics, all wrapped up in her story. It takes us inside GHCQ, secrets of cyberwar, my character Saara’s brilliant mind and her personal relationships with this ridiculously thrilling plot. I feel like it asks how someone extraordinary and flawed can survive being put through some of the most intense challenges, responsibilities and traumas she will ever face in a very short space of time. It’s me, Simon Pegg, Adrian Lester, Mark Rylance and more, in what I think is one of the most amazing scripts for television ever written.

Any funny stories from rehearsals?

Even though Simon Pegg’s role in The Undeclared War is completely serious, he made us all laugh so much in between takes. Him and Alex Jennings are a very cheeky pair put together and were constantly making me crease the second they called ‘Cut!’. Joss Porter who plays Phil, who is pretty grumpy in the show, is actually one of the funniest people I’ve ever met – I was constantly laughing between takes with him too. Everyone was actually really funny which was so needed when we were filming such long hours and emotionally demanding work!

Favourite person you’ve worked with on The Undeclared War?

I don’t think I can pick a particular favourite, but I was pretty lucky with who I got to work with on my first breakout role! Peter Kosminsky, writer and director of the show, is very special to me and feels like family. Simon Pegg has become like an ‘industry Dad’ to me – he’s just such a gem. I sound like I’m name dropping now but my weeks working with Mark Rylance will stay with me forever – that was incredibly special. And Maisie Richardson-Sellers and German Segal are two of my closest friends having worked with them on the show. I don’t do favourites!

Favourite role to date and why?

I’ve genuinely loved every project I’ve worked on, and been very lucky to have done theatre, TV and film and deeply loved every character I’ve played. But I think Saara will always be particularly special to me, and my experience playing her in The Undeclared War has been like no other – so it’s got to be Saara.

Hannah Khalique-Brown in black waistcoat and skirt stood in front of grey background

Hannah Khalique-Brown

Role you’d cut your right arm off to get?

Honestly anything that challenges me in any way. Physically, emotionally, intellectually. Watching Euphoria made me really want to work with Zendaya in any form – if she ever writes or directs I will cut off any and all limbs to work with her. I’d also love to play opposite Florence Pugh, Anya Taylor-Joy and Timothee Chalamet – their performances have all really resonated with me as an artist and I’m desperate to work with them all respectively.

What demands do you have during rehearsals?

As long as there’s a cup of tea nearby, I’m happy.

What qualities do you think have made you successful?

Mostly luck! An obsession with learning. And a weird, unshakable faith in myself, no matter what.

Film you think everyone in the world should see?

We’ve established that I’m not very good at picking favourites so you’ll understand the extreme angst of trying to pick out one film from my list of about 40 faves. I’ve been trying to answer this question for about an hour. Absolutely ridiculous. I’m going to go with Quadrophenia but that includes everyone having to listen to the entire soundtrack by The Who as well as watching the film. Just sublime.

What’s your relationship with social media like?

I have a mixed relationship with social media. I actually didn’t have it for about five years until recently. When I was 17 I hated the way I’d become really addicted to my phone and social media, and didn’t like what it was doing to my brain. I got rid of my smartphone, got an old flip phone instead, deleted all my social media, and for five years there was basically no online trace of me. Last year when I was shooting The Undeclared War, I had to get a smartphone to handle work, and Simon and Maisie helped me set up an Instagram, solely for my job. I don’t think consuming a lot of social media is good for me – I have a pretty addictive personality and think it’s generally best for me to avoid getting caught up in it. I now have Twitter and Instagram and only use them ‘professionally’, but I’ve really enjoyed them in that capacity! I think it’s possible to curate a social media experience that’s pretty wholesome, if you’re careful with it.

Hannah Khalique-Brown in brown leather jacket with fluffy cuffs and lapels, stood in fron to grey background

What did you want to be when you were younger?

I’ve pretty much always wanted to be an actor, but I did flirt with the idea of being a spy or a ballerina for a few years.

If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?

Please be more kind to yourself. Don’t hate yourself, and don’t waste your time hating the way you look. You’ll stop caring in a few years and it’ll be the best feeling.

Three books you’d take to a desert island and why?

The Go Between by L.P. Hartley – my favourite book and the novel which I wrote about in my dissertation at uni. The Complete Works of Shakespeare, obvs. Endless fun. And probably some sort of anthology of poetry or a Kafka novel to make me feel better about my circumstances.

The most challenging moment of your life?

I don’t think I could pick out a singular moment, because the definition of ‘challenging’ is always in flux. And the definition of life is challenging! I’m half-kidding, but honestly, I wouldn’t know what to pick out from my life. Losing my dearest teddy bear Little Cat in Tesco age four, the psychological chaos of teen years, traumatic experiences in adulthood, and sometimes just getting out of bed and facing the day can all have be equally challenging at the moment in which they were experienced. Life is beautiful and challenging in equal parts, from our first breath to our last.

How can we all live a little bit better?

Read the Stoics. Their wisdom can really change your life!

What’s your interior design style?

I haven’t fully figured it out yet, but I think both light and space have quite a big impact on my mood, so I am conscious of things that enhance that. And generally, I am more drawn to classic styles than modern.

Hannah Khalique-Brown in pink suit, stood in front of mint coloured background

What is your current beauty regime?

I tend not to wear makeup when I’m not working to let my skin breathe, as when I’m filming it’s on every day. I love a simple routine, so I just wash with a gentle cleanser at night, moisturise, and that is literally it. In the mornings I just wash my face with water and I’ve found that my skin is happiest when I do that! Oh, and SPF every day. Every. Day.

What are your indulgences?

Cadbury’s Dairy Milk – I wouldn’t even say it’s an indulgence but it’s just my favourite thing to have when I want to feel really content and comforted. There’s something quite innocent about a single bar of dairy milk. It makes me think of being a kid.

What would your best friend say about you?

My best friend Selina and I always play the game where we think of three words to describe the other. We usually end up roasting one another but I got her to properly answer this time and she said ‘passionate, caring, funny’.

How do you relax?

Usually I just completely veg out and watch films or series. If the weather is good, I go on a walk in a park nearby and just sit on a bench and listen to all the sounds. If you shut your eyes, your ears tune into all the sounds and gradually pick up absolutely everything you could possibly hear nearby – especially good for birdsong. If you do it for long enough it can be like a full on orchestra of sounds – far louder than when you’re just normally walking about.

If we’re coming to your area for a visit, what should we do?

I live in London, so the opportunities are endless. My favourite places are Covent Garden, Seven Dials in Soho, Hampstead, Highgate and Southbank to name a few. Go on a morning walk in Hampstead Heath, then catch a cult film for super cheap at the Prince Charles Cinema in Soho, see a ballet at the Royal Opera House, window shop in Covent Garden and grab food at Seven Dials Market, or catch a play at the National Theatre on Southbank before watching the sunset from Waterloo Bridge.

Are you a rule breaker or a rule taker?

Super uncool but… I am more of a rule taker these days.


You can watch Hannah Khalique-Brown on The Undeclared War, which starts on Channel 4 at 9pm on Thursday 30 June 2022.


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