SAARA PARVIN (Hannah Khalique-Brown)
Saara is a second-year computer science student at London University, who wins a highly sought-after work experience place at GCHQ. The only people in her personal life who are aware of her new role are for her father with whom she has a special bond, and her partner James (played by Ed Holcroft), a teacher and passionate activist. Young, gifted and driven - Saara is used to success academically, less so socially. GCHQ is a learning curve for her as she goes from top of the class to one amongst many gifted coders and analysts – and learns both the limits and values of inexperience.
KATHY FREEMAN (Maisie Richardson-Sellers)
Kathy is an American NSA analyst, on secondment to GCHQ. From a family of military and law enforcement, Kathy is pragmatic, strong, and level-headed. Private and focussed, she has followed a stint embedded with US troops in Iraq with this assignment – which leverages her skills to monitor and sometimes intervene in politically focussed social media interactions. A bond with Saara is sparked initially by the refreshing common ground of being the only young women of colour in a space dominated by white, older men.
JOHN YEABSLEY (Mark Rylance)
A lifelong GCHQ employee, John has been studying Russian military comms for over 50 years. A cantankerous man tinged with a nostalgia for the past and a streak of pedantry that extends to running a grammar blog on GCHQ’s internal social network – John is a Cold War expert who was prematurely invited to retire when the focus of intelligence work moved to terrorism and the Middle East. An iconoclast who rails against the petty bureaucracy of the Doughnut – underneath his prickly exterior John is a patriot at heart.
DANNY PATRICK (Simon Pegg)
Danny Patrick is the Head of Operations at GCHQ and acts as the de facto deputy to David Neal (played by Alex Jennings), the Director. Unlike his boss, a career civil servant and a relatively new arrival at GCHQ, Danny has worked at the listening station all his adult life. He is calm under fire and is trusted and respected by most of the staff. Open and friendly by nature, his natural bonhomie conceals a terrifyingly sharp mind, and it would be unwise to cross him thoughtlessly. A family man and father to two young boys, Danny works to try balance all of his responsibilities and be available to all of his team.
DAVID NEAL (Alex Jennings)
David Neal is a career civil servant, and Director of GCHQ. With a long track record in national security, he is seen in Whitehall as a safe pair of hands. David is hard working and loyal, efficient, and effective. He can be good company when he stops working long enough to try and is respected if not loved by his staff.
ANDREW MAKINDE (Adrian Lester)
Andrew Makinde is Britain’s first Black Prime Minister and, as such, is sometimes portrayed as a sign of enlightened liberalism in the governing Conservative party, better reflecting the country’s diverse ethnic makeup - but the truth is that Andrew is the richest person in the Cabinet. Used to success if not to popularity, Andrew has become increasingly irritable as every remedial action his government has attempted has failed to resuscitate the UK economy.
GABRIEL DAVIES (Alfie Friedman)
As a mathematician, Gabriel's job at GCHQ is to break incoming encryption. The mathematicians work apart from others at GCHQ. It is a highly secret part of the work of the organisation which, until recently, was not avowed. Like Saara, Gabriel is an extremely high achiever and has a very high opinion of his own abilities. He can't see why people consider him arrogant. As far as he's concerned, he's just being accurate. Gabriel is neurodiverse and struggles with the GCHQ meetings culture but has found a place where his talents are harnessed, and his work appreciated.
VADIM TRUSOV (German Segal)
Born in St Petersburg, Vadim is the only son of fabulously wealthy parents who owe their fortune to his father’s arms manufacturing business. Vadim is quiet and thoughtful, but his shyness can come across as aloofness or arrogance. Although he doubts himself, quietly, and in his own way, Vadim is in fact quite brave. Used to being overshadowed by his family’s wealth, he is both a talented coder and artist – battling with his conscience as he becomes increasingly involved in politics.
MARINA VESELOVA (Tinatin Dalakishvili)
Fierce and radical, Marina is a journalist originally from Siberia. She is a single mother to her young daughter Mina, the only ray of bright light in Marina's life. Ferociously ambitious, Marina comes across as brusque and dismissive – with an almost impenetrable wall around herself, but beneath her exterior she is deeply thoughtful and intuitive.