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Charlie Cox Talks Netflix’s Treason

6 min read
Treason (2022)

From the MCU to the British police procedural, Charlie Cox is a man spinning a lot of televised plates. With his latest dalliance with coming to screens on 26th December, FILMHOUNDS sat down with him to find out what challenges come with playing the head of MI6.

So, Treason — congratulations. This is totally a show that, going into watching it, I didn't really know anything about, and was just so taken with how slick and well-paced it is. How did this project land in your lap?


It was one of those projects that I got an email from my agents and it was a little bit last minute — which makes me think they probably were trying to get some huge movie star before me and didn't manage to. So I was a very, very grateful sloppy seconds. Or thirds even. I got an email saying that they were interested in me for this role and would I like to read it and have a conversation with Matt Charmin (writer and showrunner), and I did that. It was around this time last year actually, and we were gearing up to move my family across from America over here to back to London to do the show. So it was very interesting.


The thriller procedural is something that we Brits do so well. Does this feel like a cornerstone in your acting career or a tick off of the actors' checklist?


I genuinely haven't thought of it that way. Thinking about it, you're right — there are so many fantastic British shows that follow a similar-ish formula. Maybe Treason is part of that. When I'm reading something, my brain doesn't see things that way. Immediately I think about the people. What are the relationships and dynamics like? What is the heart of the show? For me, what was interesting about Treason was that it was this spy thriller on the surface, but when you get underneath that, you're left with this family pulled apart by the job that Adam does. They're living in this world and having to engage in the kind of work that he's been doing for over two decades. Then it's what that does when old wounds rise to the surface, what that does to the family dynamic. That was what was really fascinating about it, and that's what I felt was different from a lot of shows in this genre. Normally the big moment of revelation leads to more . Exciting car chases solve the problem. Whereas this show, we have the big revelation and then we go back into the family home and we see how it's impacting the children and the partners.


Your character is somebody that isn't doing things by the book all the time. He's not always doing things for the right reasons. Is it fun to like to sink your teeth into a character that's more morally ambiguous?


It really is. That was a huge part of the conversation that I had with Matt when we were getting ready to start shooting the show. Finding Adam's moral centre was imperative. I felt like we had to land in a place where we believe where he is our hero and we are rooting for him. We want him to succeed, want him to beat the odds. But it's not as black and white. There have been a couple of moments in his past that one could argue he hasn't handled with the most scrutiny and as a result, probably subjected him to some minor or major discipline. When you add enough time to that, and when there's pressure to hide something, you start getting into really dangerous territory where you might be someone who could commit the ultimate in this world.


Were you ever kept in the dark when you were filming this? Or did you always know exactly what was going to happen? 


Everything about my character was very clear. But I think there were some revelations about some of the other characters that I wasn't subject to. That's not because they decided not to tell me — I'm quite happy reading the scripts as they come in, and preparing for them one at a time. If it impacts my character, I feel like I need to know because it might be something that's happened in the past and therefore is a part of who I am today. So if there's a revelation in Episode Four about something that happened in 1998, or whatever it is, then I feel like that's important to know. But yeah, there were a couple of things that I didn't know until we got to those episodes. That's kind of fun. You get to read it like an audience.


Speaking of preparation — we're talking about MI6. How much research is needed? Obviously, there's a great deal that we don't know about them.


I think a lot of it is about doing the right research. There's a lot of fantastic journalism around this area. I read a number of books that were incredibly helpful. You kind of just throw yourself into that research, and it paints a picture that you can swim in a little bit. And then when you marry that with the scripts, it helps to make that world feel rich and present it as authentic and truthful. Obviously, there's only so far you can go in terms of research into MI6 itself. You're not knowingly going to have a conversation with someone who's living the life of Adam Lawrence. But there's enough great literature out there to get into, and loads of great movies. I got to sit down and watch a ton of movies that I love and haven't seen in a while — genre and Bond films. It's pretty funny when you're watching a James Bond film and your wife's like “Can you help with the kids?” and I'm like “I'm working…”


When Matt spoke at the press premiere couple of months ago, I think he said that at one point you were juggling three projects at once, and they all had very different accents. And you know, they demand a lot of you. How do you balance filming all of this stuff at the same time?


I was finishing Treason and having to fly out and do some stuff. And then also starting the second season for Kin at the same time. There was a period of time when it got pretty overwhelming. First of all, you think back to when you left drama school and the only job you could get was serving people food. So you remember how grateful you are that you're in demand and working. I hope that I never ever forget how frustrating and scary it is to be committed to this life and this job. And not be able to get work. So you try to manage your anxiety with a huge dollop of gratitude. I think that your training kicks in and you're able to be able to compartmentalise. By the time that was happening on this job, I'd been playing Adam Lawrence for 3-4 months, so I knew who that character was. I show up on the set and I immediately remember who he is and what he's trying to do and where we are in the story. Daredevil I've been playing for almost a decade and so it's similar there. My accent was a little rusty, I'll be honest. Probably have to have kind of fixed a lot of that in ADR… The hardest part really is just managing the work with making sure you get enough time with the family. That's the thing that's painful — at least when you're struggling to kind of really get loads of time with your children and your wife and stuff like that.


If you are going to be in MI6, where would you want to slot yourself into the organisation?


I would make such a bad spy. I would like to be in the mailroom, haha! I would like to have a really unimportant, really low-risk job where I couldn't possibly, like accidentally hand over really crucial information to an enemy state.


Doing a job like this does make you often realise how unimportant this all can be. Of course, entertainment is really important. It's often the heartbeat of people's weeks, watching the shows that they love. But in terms of life-saving important jobs out there, acting probably isn't very high up on the list. It's quite fun to engage mentally and emotionally in a world where the day-to-day work of what people do is genuinely the difference between life and death. And it gives you a lot of perspective on what kind of pressure people feel, and the work that they do to keep us safe.


All episodes of Treason are available to stream on Netflix.