Just as Maya Cobbina is about to become the first black Director of Public Prosecutions, she discovers that her husband and father of their children, Nick, has been lying to her for years – and those lies could destroy her career.
Undercover is a new series from Peter Moffat (The Night Of) that will air on BBC America beginning with a two-night premiere event on Wednesday, November 16 and Thursday, November 17 (8/7C).
Read on for series and character descriptions and a teaser trailer.
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From award-winning screenwriter Peter Moffat; starring Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo, Olivier Award winner Adrian Lester and Golden Globe® nominee Dennis Haysbert
New York – October 20, 2016 – Premiering on November 16, BBC AMERICA’s Undercover is a bold new political thriller told through a family on the brink of destruction. From BAFTA-winning screenwriter Peter Moffat (The Night Of, Criminal Justice), the six-part series follows Maya Cobbina (Sophie Okonedo), a spirited and passionate barrister (lawyer), who is about to become the first black Director of Public Prosecutions – the highest-ranking public prosecutor role in England. But just as Maya’s life comes under intense public scrutiny, she discovers that Nick (Adrian Lester), her husband and the father of her children, has been lying to her for years. His web of lies threatens to destroy not only her career (and the twenty-year-long case she’s based it all on), but also the life she and Nick built together. Starring Academy Award nominee Sophie Okonedo, Olivier Award winner Adrian Lester and Golden Globe® nominee Dennis Haysbert, Undercover debuts with a two-night premiere event on Wednesday, November 16 and Thursday, November 17 at 8/7c on BBC AMERICA.
For the past twenty years Maya has defended Rudy Jones (Haysbert) – a death row inmate, falsely imprisoned for murder. Maya can only watch as her dearest friend and client refuses to go quietly, urging her to fight the deep-grained injustices that have tainted two decades of his life. Shaken, Maya returns to London, to her three children and husband, Nick (Lester) – a writer and a man dedicated to his family. Nick put his ambitions to one side to support the meteoric career of his brilliant wife…but all is not what it seems. Nick has a secret past life as an undercover officer, infiltrating political organizations for the Metropolitan Police. It was on one of these missions that he met Maya, fell in love, left the police force and went on to have three children – all under a false identity. Now, Nick is trapped in the compounding lie. Truths will emerge and Maya and Nick’s lives will change forever…
In following Maya and her life’s work, Undercover explores controversial and challenging issues that impact society on a global scale, with the narrative revealed over different time frames in both the US and UK. The series pulls from factual events in recent UK history and tackles the hot button issue of race relations, weaving a tale of political corruption, betrayal, and miscarriages of justice.
Undercover is a BBC Drama Production co-produced by BBC AMERICA. The series is executive produced by Hilary Salmon (The Night of), directed by James Hawes (Penny Dreadful) and Jim O’Hanlon (In the Flesh), with Richard Stokes (Broadchurch) producing.
SYNOPSES *WARNING, SPOILERS
EPISODE ONE – WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 8/7c
For the past twenty years Maya Cobbina has defended Rudy Jones, a man falsely imprisoned for murder. Today he is to be executed by lethal injection in Louisiana. Rudy’s parting words are “Go big” – he wants her to change the system that allows such injustices to occur. With Rudy’s appeal ringing in her ears, Maya returns to London and discovers that she’s been pegged to take the role of Director of Public Prosecutions. Maya’s husband Nick Johnson is a man dedicated to his wife and children. But something darker seems to be going on under Nick’s domestic existence. When a hidden past threatens to destroy his world, to what lengths will he go to protect his family?
EPISODE TWO – WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 9/8c
As Maya continues her fight, the establishment begins to fear the light she threatens to shine on them. Sickened by his act of betrayal, Nick can only reflect on the actions that led him to this point. In 1996 Nick was a fearless undercover officer, whose hard work was undermined by a radical young lawyer. On his next assignment, spying on an anti-racist organization, he finds himself face to face with that lawyer, Maya. Nick’s feelings for Maya develop and he struggles to keep the professional and the personal separate, questioning his own beliefs, as a black man within the police force.
EPISODE THREE – WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 10/9c
A mystery witness makes contact with Maya, forcing her to re-examine everything she thought she knew about the case. Maya must put the past to one side in order to fight the US authorities, but her return brings a disappointment and a revelation that’ll rock her marriage. Nick is thrown sideways when a ghost from his past approaches him. Faced with the possibility that his secret life is going to be blown open, Nick makes a decision to protect his family. Meanwhile, in 1996, Julia (a journalist at the Daily Metro, and Maya’s best friend) tries to shine a light on the Antwi story, but her efforts are thwarted by the establishment.
EPISODE FOUR – THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 8/7c
Terrified Maya might be close to discovering his secret, Nick controls the situation with a devastating lie. Taking solace in work, Maya continues to search for the witness. What had Maya missed all those years ago? Far from shining light on the case, her investigation leads to a shocking fact that forces her personal and professional life to collide. Maya makes a call she knows might change her life forever. Who is her husband?
EPISODE FIVE – THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 9/8c
As Maya continues to fight the State authorities, all seems lost until a stranger appears with new information – bringing Maya to a new realization uncovers links between her two cases. Spurred on to discover the truth, Maya must go bigger, but is it too late? Nick’s secret is threatened by someone close and he can only watch as a vital bit of intelligence is revealed that could destroy Maya’s work. Is there any way back for the family?
EPISODE SIX – THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 10/9c
Maya’s trust is in tatters, with all of her cards seemingly played out. Can she find the strength for the final fight and change the course of US Justice? And when the final piece of the jigsaw that links these two miscarriages of justice is revealed, what does that mean for her fight to ‘go big’? Facing the end of his marriage, Nick concocts a drastic final plan with the help of Julia and Brady to expose the establishment figures responsible for the growing conspiracy. Willing to put everything on the line, can his family stop him in time? And will they all emerge unscathed?
CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS *WARNING, SPOILERS
MAYA COBBINA (Sophie Okonedo)
Passionate, forthright and fiercely intelligent, Maya Cobbina is a top-drawer lawyer and a pro-bono representative for death row inmates in the US. For twenty years she’s been trying to gain justice for Michael Antwi, a charismatic anti-racist campaigner who died in police custody. Promoted to the position of Director of Public Prosecutions (the first black woman to take the role), Maya is finally in a position to uncover the truth of his death – when a secret at the heart of her family blows her world apart.
NICK JOHNSON (Adrian Lester)
Happily married to Maya, Nick is a writer who has put his ambitions to one side to support the meteoric career of his brilliant wife. But all is not what it seems. Nick has a secret past life as an undercover officer, infiltrating political organizations for the Metropolitan Police. It was on one of these missions that he met Maya, fell in love, left the police force and went on to have three children – all under a false identity. Now that Maya is getting close to the truth about Michael Antwi, Nick’s former paymasters reappear, blackmailing him into spying on the love of his life.
CLEMENCY JOHNSON (Tamara Lawrance)
Nick and Maya’s eldest child, Clem, has grown up cocooned in unconditional love but is about to fly the nest as an Oxford student. Sensitive and on the cusp of adulthood, Clem is alive to the changes in her parents’ relationship. It’s not long before she discovers the awful truth that has been the invisible background of her life.
DANIEL JOHNSON (Daniel Ezra)
Dan is 18-years-old. His learning disability makes him a deeply literal boy. He can’t do irony, sarcasm, cynicism, white lies, nuance or nods and winks. But as the truth about his father emerges, Dan must learn to cope with a world of lies and deceit.
ELLA JOHNSON (Shannon Hayes)
The youngest Johnson child, Ella is a typical teenager preoccupied with parties and popularity – but with huge love for her family bubbling just under the surface.
RUDY JONES (Dennis Haysbert)
Falsely accused of the murder of a local politician, Rudy Jones has spent twenty years on death row, predominantly in solitary confinement. Represented by Maya from the beginning, he’s borne all his privations with dignity and courage. But Maya will learn that he’s been keeping a secret from her all along – one that he almost took to the grave.
MICHAEL ANTWI (Sope Dirisu)
Michael is a charismatic, young activist for black rights. He believes in positive action by which he means that black people need to fight back. He takes political activism to a new level – he is not settling for placards and marches. We discover, in the present tense that Michael died in police custody and Maya has been fighting for years to prove there was a conspiracy around his death.
PAUL BRIGHTMAN (Derek Riddell)
A long-serving undercover police officer who’s risen through the ranks and into the security services, Brightman is responsible for bringing Nick back into the fold when Maya is offered the role of DPP. As the series unfolds, we learn that Brightman’s involvement in Antwi’s death runs deeper than even his co-conspirators, Halliday and Greenlaw, realize.
JULIA REDHEAD (Angel Coulby)
Maya’s best friend from way back, Julia is an established journalist at the Daily Metro who got her first break writing about Michael Antwi’s death. However, her editor twisted her story from a portrayal of Antwi’s positive work into an excoriating character-assassination. Julia stayed at the paper, hoping to change the institution from within and make a positive impact as a black journalist, but she’s haunted by her initial act of betrayal. When she starts to work out that Nick isn’t what he seems, the story presents itself as a chance for redemption.
ABIGAIL STRICKLAND (Leanne Best)
In 1996 Abigail was an undercover officer for the Met Police, risking life and limb to infiltrate ruthless drugs gangs. maintaining her cover as the girlfriend of a dealer, she was forced to take class-A drugs and developed an addiction. Instead of getting help, Abi was given the sack. Twenty years later, finally free of drugs, she reappears in Nick’s life. But what is she after and why? And how will Nick react to the prospect of Abi revealing the secret of their shared past to his beloved wife?
JOHN HALLIDAY (Mark Bonnar)
Back in the 1990s, Halliday was a CPS officer working out of the same police station as Brightman. The pair collaborated on a number of dodgy convictions, acting outside the law to entrap criminals. Halliday has now worked his way up to become the second-in-command at the CPS, and is keeping an eye on Maya from the inside.
ROBERT GREENLAW (Alistair Petrie)
A junior minister in the home office at the time of Antwi’s death, Greenlaw sanctioned a cover-up of what really happened in the police station that night. Having risen through the ranks over the last two decades to Minister for Justice, Greenlaw has the most to lose. Unwilling to get his hands dirty, he nonetheless goes along with Brightman’s plan to bulldoze Maya’s case.
DOMINIC CARTER (Vincent Regan)
A lifer in the Police, Carter was Nick’s handler in 1996, his only link to his old life when Nick had to forge a new identity and immerse himself in his undercover life. Carter can only watch and advise as Nick begins to fall for Maya and his personal and professional lives begin to blur. Twenty years on and Carter has resumed his role as handler, but this time his protégé is less than willing to cooperate. It is Carter’s job to bring Nick onside after he submits to the blackmail of his former paymasters, reporting back on his every move and manipulating Nick and the situation when necessary.
CAST AND PRODUCTION CREDITS
Maya Cobbina Sophie Okonedo (The Hollow Crown, Criminal Justice)
Nick Johnson Adrian Lester (Euphoria, London Spy)
Daniel Johnson Daniel Ezra (The Missing, Prey)
Clemency Johnson Tamara Lawrance (Undercover)
Ella Johnson Shannon Hayes (Tyger Tyger)
Rudy Jones Dennis Haysbert (Kodachrome, 24)
Michael Antwi Sope Dirisu (Sand Castle, Humans)
Paul Brightman Derek Riddell (The Missing, Ripper Street)
Julia Redhead Angel Coulby (The Tunnel, Dancing on the Edge)
Abigail Strickland Leanne Best (Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens, Line of Duty)
John Halliday Mark Bonnar (Catastrophe, Line of Duty)
Robert Greenlaw Alistair Petrie (Hampstead, The Night Manager)
Dominic Carter Vincent Regan (The White Princess, Silk)
Creator/Writer Peter Moffat (The Night of, Criminal Justice)
Executive Producer Hilary Salmon (The Night of, London Spy)
Director (Episodes 1-3) James Hawes (Penny Dreadful, Enid)
Director (Episodes 4-6) Jim O’Hanlon (In the Flesh, Emma)
Producer Richard Stokes (Broadchurch, Silk)
Undercover is a BBC Drama Production co-produced by BBC AMERICA