Comparing the Spy Thrillers
by Sabrina Barr | The Metro | December 9, 2022
A Spy Among Friends writer Alex Cary has opened up about how the espionage drama differs from Homeland, having previously worked with Damian Lewis on the American spy thriller.
The new series, released on streaming platform ITVX and based on the book of the same name by Ben Macintyre, tells the true story of double agent Kim Philby, played by Guy Pearce, who was discovered to have been feeding secrets back to the Soviet Union throughout his several years enlisted by MI6. Watch video below:
His close friend, Nicholas Elliott (Lewis), a fellow agent, was none the wiser to his actions for decades, with Philby eventually being publicly found out in the 1960s, before he fled and defected to Moscow.
This isn’t the first time Lewis, 51, and Cary, 59, have worked together, as the latter was also a writer and producer on Homeland, an acclaimed series that earned Lewis three awards, including a Primetime Emmy and a Golden Globe.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk about the main differences between the two shows, ex-soldier Cary explained that while A Spy Among Friends is about espionage, the friendship between Elliott and Philby at the centre of the story is the most pivotal theme in the narrative.
‘I would say the setting is espionage in this one, and the theme is friendship,’ he said, when asked about the shared theme of espionage in the two shows.
‘For me, when writing that, the glue that binds this together is friendship and betrayal. Homeland was a little different, because it was a very different type of relationship that was established on the fact that a woman who was underestimated was right about what was going to happen in the future. So a little different.
‘But I think the theme here is much more specifically about friendship.’
While A Spy Among Friends is based on a true story, while watching the series, viewers might find themselves questioning whether certain scenes are showing the truth, or a certain character’s version of events from their perspective, such as when Elliott confronts Philby about his betrayal.
‘I think in every spy story, you want to play with truth and deception. But we’re not deliberately trying to trick the audience,’ the writer said.
‘We’re trying to show those scenes pretty much through Elliott’s perspective. So what we’re asking the audience to do, for most of the time, is to put themselves in Elliott’s shoes. Therefore, obviously, if that is your experience of the show, you’re going to be doubting what Philby is saying.’
Cary outlined how there are ‘rare’ and ‘deliberate’ moments where they try to put the audience in Philby’s point of view, while Elliott is ‘psychologically kind of wriggling under his skin’.
‘So yes, there’s a lot of that, that’s deliberate. But I don’t think we’re trying to hide the ball, trying to trick the audience. We’re trying to give them an experience,’ he added.
Lewis jumped in to express the importance of holding some information back from viewers, stating: ‘Nevertheless in all good storytelling, you can give some of the information upfront, and then the payoff comes later. And that’s always really satisfying for an audience member. Particularly helpful for a spy thriller, in this genre.’
Prior to filming A Spy Among Friends, Lewis didn’t know anything about Elliott, ‘so everything I learned about him, I learned about him just then in the moment’, he said.
‘There were times when I thought, Jesus Christ, upper class twit, how could you not have seen what was going on? And you were all just sort of hapless and shambolic,’ he remarked.
‘I think it does, at times, feel like that – it feels a bit like that in Ben’s book as well, this sort of caper-ish shenanigans of these privileged, educated guys who are running our intelligence agencies in this slightly chaotic way.’
However, Lewis stressed that ‘none of them were stupid’, despite the deception that went right under the noses of MI6 by the most notorious double agent in British history.
‘What we had to keep reminding ourselves, and it’s sometimes difficult to dramatise this, but it’s just to remember that jeopardy was at stake and we kept saying that to ourselves. So they don’t just seem like Jeeves and Wooster bouncing along,’ he quipped.
‘How do we show jeopardy? They are real life and death scenarios constantly that they live through. So I hope we managed to convey a bit of that.’
Read the rest of the original article at Metro