Interview: Luke Treadaway on Channel 4's Traitors.
Created by multiple award-winning playwright and screenwriter Bash Doran (Boardwalk Empire, Looming Tower, Masters of Sex), Traitors is her first original commission for British TV, with award-winning directors Dearbhla Walsh and Alex Winckler at the helm bringing the six-part series to life.
Traitors will air on Channel 4 on Sunday 17th February at 9pm and globally on Netflix outside of the U.K. and Ireland (and China where Netflix is not available) later this year.
The cast includes Emma Appleton (Clique) as Feef Symonds, Keeley Hawes (Bodyguard, The Missing, Line of Duty) as Priscilla, Michael Stuhlbarg (Shape Of Water, The Looming Tower, The Post, Boardwalk Empire) as Rowe, Luke Treadaway (Ordeal by Innocence, Fortitude, Unbroken) as Hugh, Brandon P Bell (Dear White People) as Jackson, Stephen Campbell Moore (The Last Post, The Child in Time) as Philip and Matt Lauria (Kingdom, Parenthood) as Peter.
Traitors is a compulsive spy thriller that takes us behind the scenes of a seismic moment in global history, through the eyes of one young woman caught in the middle of it. An intimate epic set in 1945 London, Traitors is the dangerous, enthralling story of Feef, who is seduced by a rogue American spy into spying on her own country. Her task? To uncover a Russian agent in the heart of the British Government.
Luke Treadaway plays Hugh.
Describe Traitors for us.
I would describe Traitors as a political thriller set in the 1940s after the war. It’s that time when you’ve got soldiers coming home, rationing is still going on, politics are in a massive state of change with the Conservatives being voted out and Labour being voted in on this wave of socialism and feeling of wanting to create a welfare state. For my character Hugh he’s just been voted in as an MP after fighting in the Second World War. That’s the politics behind it.
How does Hugh get involved in the story?
From Hugh’s point of view it begins with him meeting Feef at her family home. He’s working as a solicitor and is helping them work out what to do with their big country pile which is falling down. He meets Feef there, he finds out she’s applying for the Civil Service, meets up with her a few months later on the night of the election results – he’s just found out he’s been voted in as a Labour MP – and they have a disastrous dinner date where he walks out before they’ve even ordered food. They have a couple of false starts really. Even though there’s a chemistry between them, Hugh is not someone to just say the right thing to make the dinner date go well. He’s a very principled man. He’s quite repelled by Feef in that dinner scene, some of her attitudes towards working-class people and the electorate in general. So Hugh leaves. They meet up again at the American Embassy. They keep meeting and eventually they do find a connection. Hugh is obviously in the dark about everything else going on in Feef’s life. She protects him from that. But Hugh, who starts the whole thing with a fiancé, then breaks off his engagement because he realises he’s fallen completely in love with Feef.
Why is this an interesting time to set a drama?
The world order was changing. There was left, after the Second World War, this vacuum of who was going to be the world power. That was being decided in rooms like this, amongst the intelligence services and America setting up its first secret intelligence service, which you see in this. There’s always been spying going on, hasn’t there? This was the time before mobile phones, before computers and things like that. It was much more cloak and dagger with files being passed. It’s more what we think of when we think of “spies”, more so probably than today. I love it, I love the world of the show.
How does Hugh change across the series?
Throughout the series you see Hugh go from someone who thinks he has the world worked out, thinks he has life worked out – marrying the girl next door and becoming a Labour MP to save the world – then quite quickly realises it’s harder to save the world than he thought, maybe he doesn’t want to marry the girl next door because he met Feef and she blows his mind. To use a cliché he goes on the journey of someone who is still a boy really to then becoming a bit more of a man in terms of the world and politics.
What drew you to Traitors?
It was really exciting to read. It was one of the best scripts I’ve read. It’s one of the best crews and casts I’ve worked with. If it’s half as interesting to watch as it was to read and it was to make, then it will be a really amazing show people will enjoy.
How is Traitors unique?
It’s totally different and unique to things we’ve seen before. It’s about the script and the story and the characters and the way it’s shot and the design of it. It is a unique being, it feels like that. People will feel like that when they see it.
Traitors - 9pm, Sundays, Channel 4 / Catch up via All4.