A Spy Among Friends: release date, cast, interviews, plot, trailer, first looks and all about the espionage drama

A Spy Among Friends on ITV1 and ITVX features Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce as Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby.
A Spy Among Friends on ITA Spy Among Friends on ITV1 and ITVX features Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce as Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby.VX features Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce as Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby. (Image credit: ITV)

A Spy Among Friends is a tense factual drama set in the 1950s that will show us the shady and compelling world of espionage in Britain during the Cold War. 

The six-parter, filmed in London and Romania, boasts Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce among the cast as well as Anna Maxwell Martin. Take a look at their dapper 1950s suits in our pictures (see above and below) as they play British intelligence officers Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby.

So here's everything we can tell you about A Spy Among Friends coming to  ITVX, ITV1 MGM+ and BritBox.

Nicholas Elliott (Damian Lewis) and Kim Philby (Guy Pearce) were once the best of friends.

Nicholas Elliott (Damian Lewis) and Kim Philby (Guy Pearce) were once the best of friends. (Image credit: ITV)

A Spy Among Friends release date

A Spy Among Friends launches in the UK on ITV1 on Sunday July 9, at 9pm, 2023, having previously been shown on December 8 2022 on the ITV streaming service ITVX. A Spy Among Friends will be launching worldwide on the streaming service BritBox (here's our full list of BritBox shows).

In the US, A Spy Among Friends will be shown on MGM+, the linear channel and streaming service previously known as Epix.

Here's everything you need to know about how to watch ITVX streaming service.

On Amazon Prime Vi...

Britbox is the No. 1 way to watch all your favorite British shows from the BBC and ITV. And you can watch it easily via Amazon Prime Video Channels. All your subscription and billing is handled through your Amazon account, allowing you to watch as much as you want for a single price.

Is there a trailer for A Spy Among Friends?

Yes a trailer yet for A Spy Among Friends has just been released which shows all the intrigue and 1950s vibe. Take a look below...

A Spy Among Friends plot

A Spy Among Friends is based on the best-selling book by author Ben Macintyre (who also wrote Operation Mincemeat). 

The six-part Cold War-set series sees Damian Lewis play Nicholas Elliott, who works as an intelligence officer for MI6 and is left in turmoil when, in 1963, his close friend and colleague Kim Philby, played by Guy Pearce, decides to defect to Russia after secretly working as a double agent for the KGB.

The drama explores the tight-knit, long-standing relationship between the two men and highlights how Kim Philby’s actions had a devastating impact on British and American intelligence and far-reaching consequences for the ongoing dealings between Russia and the West. 

"These fabulous scripts by Alex Cary take an up-close look at friendship — a friendship that was blinded by love, class, and membership to the right clubs, and ended in betrayal and the deaths of thousands,’ says Damian Lewis, who is also a producer on the drama. ‘It’s been a fantastic creative process."’

Guy Pearce adds: "It’s an honour to be a part of this thrilling project. I’ve always been fascinated by the intriguing MI6 history and getting to go on this journey with Damian makes it all the more brilliant."

Damian Lewis as Nicholas Elliott talking to Kim Philby (Guy Pearce)..

Damian Lewis as Nicholas Elliott talking to Kim Philby (Guy Pearce) in A Spy Among Friends. (Image credit: ITVX)

A Spy Among Friends cast

Damian Lewis, who plays Nicholas Elliot, is best known for hit dramas such as Band Of Brothers, Homeland and Billions. He was married to Harry Potter and Peaky Blinders star Helen McCrory who sadly died in 2021

Co-star Guy Pearce started off on television as Mike Young in the Australian soap Neighbours from 1986 to 1989. His break into movies came in the 1994 movie The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert before starring in movies such as L.A. Confidential (1997), Memento (2000), The Time Machine (2002), The King's Speech (2010), Prometheus (2012), and the Marvel action movie Iron Man 3. Guy recently went back to television to star alongside Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown.

Other stars in A Spy Among Friends include Motherland star Anna Maxwell Martin as Lily Thomas, plus The Young Ones legend Adrian Edmondson as MI5’s Director General Sir Roger Hollis. Danile Lapaine plays Donald Maclean, while Thomas Arnold plays Guy Burgess - both Soviet spies too. Stephen Kunken, Monika Gossmann Steven Elder, Lucy Russell and Lucy Akhurst also star.

Anna Maxwell-Martin in A Spy Among Friends.

Anna Maxwell-Martin as Lily Thomas in A Spy Among Friends. (Image credit: ITVX)

Damian Lewis and David Schwimmer star.

Damian Lewis with David Schwimmer when starring in Band Of Brothers. (Image credit: HBO/Sky)

Interview: Guy Pearce on playing Kim Philby in A Spy Among Friends

A Spy Among Friends is set during the height of the Cold War and reveals how Kim Philby, who began spying for the Soviets while at university in the 1930s as one of the infamous Cambridge Spies, had managed to escape detection for over 30 years due to his apparently unassailable position within the British establishment.

"There is something intoxicating and dangerous about the game of playing one party off against another," says Pearce, 55. "That probably kept his fires burning for years. It's a complex drive but one that was wonderful to play and to try to understand."

Kim Philby’s relationship with Nicholas Elliott, played by Damian Lewis, is examined in flashback, taking in their first meeting in 1940 and culminating in a charged encounter between the pair in Beirut, just before Philby’s defection, when Elliott is sent by the intelligence services to interrogate his old friend after suspicions about Philby finally start to mount up. 

"These two guys have gone, “I'm your friend for life.” And in the end, that's not the case," shares Pearce. ‘It’s really personal. The betrayal of that friendship should tap into something in the audience's mind - if we've ever been lied to, or let down by a friend, it hurts.’"

Guy Pearce will show Kim Philby's downfall.

Guy Pearce will show Kim Philby's downfall and disgrace. (Image credit: ITV)

'A Spy Among Friends' with Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce.

It's the spying game in the 1950s for Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby. (Image credit: BritBox)

Interview: Damian Lewis on playing Nicholas Elliott

On of the most tense moments in A Spy Among Friends is when Nicholas Elliott learns that Kim Philby is a traitor and is left questioning everything he once believed about his friend.

"It’s like being cheated on. That level of betrayal would unwind you,’ says Damian Lewis, 51. "And then Elliott also has to go through, “Did I contribute to the continuation of this lie? Where did I turn a blind eye?” It's damaging. But it’s also examining the damage that Philby inflicted on the intelligence agencies. His impact was long-lasting and lethal. The stakes are high, you're never sure if everything is as it seems."

While Kim Philby is seen being quizzed by the KGB to test his loyalty once he has fled, Elliott is also grilled by (fictional) no-nonsense, working class MI5 debriefer Lily Thomas (Anna Maxwell Martin), who is determined to discover whether Elliott is also a traitor and allowed Philby to flee or if he is using Philby to get secrets from the Russians. But eventually, after initial friction, Lily and Elliott realise they need to collaborate to learn the truth about what happened and whether other high-ranking intelligence officers, including MI5’s Director General Sir Roger Hollis (Adrian Edmondson), are also Soviet moles.

"Lily has to travel on her own journey as she has preconceptions, but they develop a lovely friendship through shared experience," explains Lewis. "She is representative of a time when women in the intelligence agencies were taking positions of more responsibility. What's lovely about this relationship is a changing of the guard, we've got men of a certain class and generation who are now dinosaurs, they've done enough damage, but Elliott has the foresight to recognise that there are other people who might be brilliant." 

Damian Lewis as British intelligence officer Nicholas Elliott.

Damian Lewis as British intelligence officer Nicholas Elliott. (Image credit: ITV)

Interview: Anna Maxwell-Martin on playing Lily

Did you know much about the story beforehand?
Anna Maxwell-Martin says: "A bit. I know a member of the Philby family. And I have all of Ben’s books, which my dear late husband [film director Roger Michell] had read because he was obsessed with spying and that kind of thing. After I got the part, I delved into them."

What do you make of the friendship between Elliott and Philby?
"It’s about love and devotion. What’s a lovely counterpoint to the sadness of it, is that the bonhomie and the social side of their lives is huge; they share everything. For that to then be shattered is destroying and embarrassing. You see the devastating impact. Elliott’s wife, Elizabeth [played by Hotel Portofino’s Lucy Akhurst], tries to stop him from feeling the burn of humiliation. Lily challenges him but Elizabeth is coddling him and it’s heart-breaking."

The character of Lily was created specifically for the drama. How do you see her?
"She’s fictional but Alex Cary [who wrote the series] came up with her because he had to have someone who could interrogate Elliott and his version of events. She’s tenacious, front-footed and good at reading a situation and extracting information. But she also has a heart and a journey."

She’s not a typical intelligence officer of the time, is she?
"No, probably she’s been sent in because they think she’ll be disregarded. She’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Lily is the antithesis of the world she finds herself in – that Elliott and Philby are in – which is the toffs. She’s from the northeast, she’s not upper-class, so it’s disarming for Elliott."

How does Lily and Elliott’s relationship shift as the series progresses?
"Her remit is to understand what happened with Philby’s defection and the extent to which Elliott is culpable. But, eventually, they work in tandem. They are two opposite people coming to a middle ground. It’s not romantic, it’s a meeting of minds. They gain a newfound respect for one another. She starts to understand the complexities of his decisions." 

What were the interrogation scenes like to film?
"I loved them! Lily wants to be the victor, so she’s trying every tactic to outmanoeuvre Elliott. I felt like I’d done a proper day’s work whilst also having a laugh because neither Damian or I are particularly serious." 

There are also some tense moments when Lily and Elliott team up to get more information about the fallout from Philby’s defection. Did you enjoy those?
"Yes, what I love about the show is that it’s about spies and it’s top-flight, but actually, the little cars are so slow when there’s a chase or someone has to be followed! But that’s what it was like then."

And was it fun to wear fashions from the era?
"Well, I had woolly tights and I got very itchy so I had to keep pulling them down – in most scenes where I’m sitting in cars or at desks, the tights are down by my ankles!"

Anna Maxwell Martin as Lily Thomas.

Anna Maxwell Martin as Lily Thomas. (Image credit: ITV)
Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.