Writer/director Peter Kosminsky is no stranger to British television. From his start in the late 1980s working on documentaries to writing and directing recent projects such as Wolf Hall and The State, Kosminsky has covered topics as diverse as the Falklands War, British ISIS agents in Syria, and Thomas Cromwell’s clash with King Henry VIII in the 16th century.
His latest project, the six-episode Peacock series The Undeclared War, tackles a new subject: cyberwarfare and Russian aggression during the 2024 British general election. While set in the near future, the show deals with topical themes that are both realistic and sobering. In an interview with Digital Trends, Kosminsky talks about casting such notable actors as Star Trek’s Simon Pegg and Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance and the urgency to fictionalize a very real threat to democracy around the world.
Digital Trends: What was the genesis behind the creation of The Undeclared War?
Peter Kosminsky: Well, like a lot of people, I watched some “bad actors” trying to undermine the U.S. presidential election in 2016. I found that really frightening. What do we have if we don’t have the integrity of our election system? I mean, look at what happened to the last U.S. presidential election, the sort of poisonous impact that’s having on political life in the United States. As far as I can tell from a distance, if people lose trust in their elections, it’s serious.
So that’s where I started. You know, I thought, Ok, what’s going on here in England? And the more I dug into it, the more terrifying it became. Actually, I didn’t even know that there was a fourth domain of conflict called cyber. I knew about land, sea and air, and that was it, really. I discovered that there was a hot war going on in the cyber domain. They were firing cyber weapons at each other [Britain and Russia]. And it was, by its nature, escalatory. When I started to look at the Russian concept of information operations, they see cyber as just one aspect of it.
I realized that there was a concrete strategy at play to try to create chaos in our society, in the West, to try to undermine people’s trust in our institutions, in our…