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Damian Grapples with Friendship, Betrayal and Producing in MGM+ Drama
by Charna Flam and Katie Reul | Variety | March 10, 2023
Following Sony’s “A Spy Among Friends” premiere and red carpet in New York, the cast and crew of “A Spy Among Friends” took to the stage to discuss the process of differentiating the series from the 2014 nonfiction book by author Ben Macintyre about one of Britain’s most notorious espionage scandals. Alexander Cary, showrunner and creator of the Sony Pictures Television series for MGM+, was joined by star Damian Lewis, director Nick Murphy and producer Chrissy Skinns.
Moderated by Variety’s TV business writer Jennifer Maas, the conversation began with Lewis’ reflection on why the series was the right opportunity to make his debut as an executive producer. Best known for his starring roles in Showtime’s “Billions” and “Homeland” and the 2001 HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” the Emmy winner tried his hand at a behind-the-screen job on the series, working with fellow executive producers Cary, Murphy, Macintyre, Bob Bookman, Alan Gasmer, Peter Jaysen and Patrick Spence.
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Who Would Make the Better Secret Agent?
by Kate Hahn | TV Insider | March 10, 2023
Damian Lewis, who won an Emmy for playing Marine double agent Nicholas Brody on Homeland, is back in the spy game as a patriot in MGM+‘s A Spy Among Friends, a tense adaptation of Ben Macintyre’s nonfiction bestseller.
Lewis is a reserved British intelligence man, Nicholas Elliott, who discovers that his best friend and colleague, the witty, charismatic Kim Philby (Guy Pearce) is a traitor. The case, which broke in the early 60s after Philby had spied for 30 years, became notorious in the U.K.
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A Show That Makes You Question All Your Relationships
by Mark Kennedy | Washington Post | March 10, 2023
NEW YORK (AP) — A main character in “A Spy Among Friends” is one of the Soviet Union’s most notorious double agents. But you don’t need to know anything about him — or really about spying in general — to enjoy the show.
The MGM+ series starring Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce dramatizes the true story of two British spies and lifelong friends, Nicholas Elliott (Lewis) and Kim Philby (Pearce.) The latter became a notorious British defector. But it’s the personal betrayal that the creators hope to explore, not stolen microfilm or dead drops.
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A Tremendous Restraint and Delicacy to Lewis’ Performance
by Shane Ryan | Paste Magazine | March 10, 2023
If you are, like me, intermittently obsessed with the business of espionage, the name Kim Philby holds a sort of ineffable mystique in the darkest corners of your brain. Philby was the most notorious of the Cambridge Five, a group of British intelligence operatives who betrayed their country in ways big and small by spying for the Soviets from the 1930s through World War II, and in some cases well into the Cold War. Philby rose the highest, and caused the most damage and sacrificed the most lives—at one point, he was the chief British intelligence officer in the U.S.—and what’s most remarkable about his story is not his ideology, or his treason, but the fact that he should have been caught decades before he fled to the USSR.
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A Nuanced, Finely Acted Cold War Series on MGM+
by John Anderson | Wall Street Journal | March 9, 2023
The six-part espionage drama “A Spy Among Friends” opens with a well-known quote from novelist E.M. Forster, which blooms enigmatic as the series rolls out: “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” By the end of episode 1, one would like to say to Forster, “Define friend.”
You can’t (he died in 1970), but Forster’s intent seems to have been straightforward enough. Not so the series, which amid all its intrigue, double meanings, double-entendres and double-dealing is about friendship and its slippery definitions. As a screen card proclaims at the outset of creator-writer Alexander Cary’s expansive adaptation, the period thriller is based on Ben Macintyre’s nonfiction book of 2014, but is itself “a work of imagination” in which names have been changed, scenes invented, etc. Nevertheless, it hews very closely to the true-crime case of infamous British double-agent Kim Philby (Guy Pearce), his close friend Nicholas Elliott (Damian Lewis), and Philby’s epic betrayal of both colleagues and country.
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A Talky Espionage Caper
by Manuel Betancourt | AV Club | March 8, 2023
The title for A Spy Among Friends, last year’s British thriller that makes its MGM+ premiere on March 12, intentionally flirts with the glaring tension its narrative rests on. The spy genre, after all, depends on a timeless mantra—“trust no one”—that seems to stand in clear contradistinction to what one expects from one’s friendships. Writer Alex Cary and director Nick Murphy have taken Ben Macintyre’s nonfiction book, an account of a famed British espionage Cold War disaster, and punched it up to ask whether it can be possible to not only be but survive being, yes, “a spy among friends.”
One would imagine the answer to be self-evident. Could anyone in the intelligence community, after all, truly put friendship above idealism, above national loyalty, above politics? And yet with every passing episode, this elegantly mounted period drama does keep you guessing as to whether the friendship at the heart of this narrative could well prove to be the exception to the rule.
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Jazzy Spy Craft
by Staff | New York Times | March 9, 2023
A Spy Among Friends begins Sunday on MGM+. The personal is political in this juicy period drama, based on a true story about two British spies (played by Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce) who form an intimate friendship over decades – except one of them was working for Russia the whole time. Even the characters aren’t quite sure which is the worse betrayal, that of country or confidant, and the show finds depth in both its emotional wounding and its jazzy spy craft. If you still think about The Americans a lot, or if you like shows where repressed fussy British men let loose at Christmastime only to regret even that fleeting moment of happy pleasure. try this.
A Spy Among Friends premieres Sunday, March 12th on MGM+ (formerly Epix).
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A Twisty MGM+ Series
by Roslyn Sulcas | New York Times | March 3, 2023
A twisty MGM+ series tells the story of Kim Philby, a British agent secretly working for the Soviet Union, and Nicholas Elliott, his closest friend. Stream beginning March 12.
“Why wasn’t he in custody?” asks the MI5 officer Lily Thomas. It is January 1963, and Thomas is talking about Kim Philby, a British intelligence agent who, after being exposed as a Soviet spy, has escaped to Moscow. Nicholas Elliott, Philby’s closest friend and a fellow member of the foreign intelligence agency MI6, looks slightly nonplused. “Well, that’s not how we —” he begins, before coming to an abrupt halt.
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Preview: Riveting Cat-and-Mouse Conversations
by Kate Hahn | TV Insider | February 24, 2023
If you learned your closest friend was a spy, would you help him evade justice? That’s the looming question in A Spy Among Friends, a slow-burn adaptation of Ben Macintyre’s nonfiction bestseller about an infamous U.K. traitor.
The limited series opens in 1963 with reserved British intelligence man Nicholas Elliott (Damian Lewis) being questioned by no-nonsense Lily Thomas (Anna Maxwell Martin) of the U.K.’s domestic intelligence agency MI5. The topic: Elliott’s role in the defection of his chum since the ’40s, charming Kim Philby (Guy Pearce), who has been outed as a double agent.
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Espionage Series Hits MGM+ in March
by Charles Barfield | The Playlist | February 2, 2023
Being a spy requires a lot of discretion. You have to not only keep most of what you do at work a secret, but you sometimes even have to lie to those closest to you to protect that work. But what happens when your best friend is also a spy? And not only that, what if that best friend who is a spy might also be a double agent, working for the enemy? That drama is what propels the plot of the new limited series, “A Spy Among Friends.”
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Two Lifelong Friends, One Double Agent
by Michael Pickard | Drama Quarterly | January 13, 2023
Stars Damian Lewis and Anna Maxwell Martin join the team behind A Spy Among Friends to discuss the making of this ITVX espionage drama, which is based on the true story of two lifelong friends and British spies – one of whom is a double agent. When he was initially approached to star in A Spy Among Friends, Damian Lewis didn’t know which of the two leads he would play.
In this DQTV interview here, star Damian Lewis, who plays Elliott, and writer Alex Cary discuss why they wanted to give viewers a peek behind the curtain of this notorious spy story. They talk about why Elliott emerged as the focal point of the drama, their roles behind the scenes as executive producers and the fallout from the damaged friendship at the heart of the story.