A Spy Among Friends is the highly anticipated new double agent drama which will launch on ITV’s new free streaming service ITVX.

Based on the New York Times best-selling book by Ben Macintyre and the true story of spies Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby, this six-part series is a must-watch this Christmas.

The cast includes award-winning stars Damian Lewis, Guy Pearce and Anna Maxwell Martin.

A story of loyalty, trust and treachery, the real-life events covered in the series resulted in the gutting of British and American Intelligence at the height of the Cold War.

If you like espionage and spy dramas, you’re going to love A Spy Among Friends.

Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming series…

What is the A Spy Among Friends release date?

Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce in A Spy Among Friends ITVX

A Spy Among Friends is released on Friday, 8 December on ITVX.

The limited series will have six episodes, all available to stream on the day of release.

ITVX is the new free streaming service, replacing the ITV Hub.

It will air on ITV at a later date.

Is A Spy Among Friends a true story?

Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce in A Spy Among Friends ITV

Nicholas Elliot and Kim Philby were real spies and lifelong friends, but one of them was betraying the other all along.

Philby went on to become the most notorious British defector and Soviet double agent in history.

Born in 1912, Harold ‘Kim’ Philby was a British intelligence officer who achieved notoriety when he was exposed as a double agent for the Soviet Union. He was a member of the Cambridge Five spy ring, which divulged British secrets to the Russians during World War II and in the early years of the Cold War.

He attended Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge and worked as a journalist before joining the intelligence services and MI6. He served as the British liaison with American intelligence agencies and during his career passed large amounts of intelligence to the Soviet Union.

After being unmasked as a double agent in 1963, Philby defected to Moscow, where he lived until his death in 1988.

Talking about how closely he kept the TV series to the facts and real events, writer Alex Carey said: "There are a lot of blurry truths… which is the nature of 'true' espionage stories - you never quite know what the truth is.

"I took that as a license to tell a greater truth or at least propose a thesis. And that gave me permission to have dramatic license.

"So, I took the story of Elliott in 1963, and how he deals with the immediate aftermath of Philby’s defection in London, considering he was probably under investigation.

"And I also deal with the emotional fallout for Philby once he gets to Russia. We track Philby once he gets to Moscow, and as you’ll see, rather than the hero's welcome he may have been expecting, he’s interrogated by a rather sceptical KGB officer, who then takes him to Moscow in episode two

"And then, throughout the rest of the story, we follow Philby in Moscow trying to prove to the Russians that he's still got his game. Which is a sort of sad and slightly pointless fight because he never really spied again. He just died of drink."

TV shows and movies about Kim Philby

Guy Pearce as Kim Philby ITV
Guy Pearce as Kim Philby

The 2003 BBC Drama Cambridge Spies covered the lives of Philby and colleagues Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt during the 1930s. Philby was played by Toby Stephens, alongside Tom Hollander, Rupert Penry-Jones and Samuel West as Burgess, Maclean and Blunt.

A Spy Among Friends has a fresh angle on the Philby story, focusing on his relationship with friend and fellow agent Nicholas Elliott.

Award-winning writer Alexander Cary, who has written the TV series, said: “It was a friendship that resulted in the gutting of British and American intelligence at the height of the Cold War and shaped the field of play for the dangerous game against Russia that we're still trying to win today.”

Is A Spy Among Friends based on a book?

Damian Lewis in A Spy Among Friends ITV

The six-part series is inspired by the popular Ben Macintyre book of the same name.

Ben Macintyre is a columnist and Associate Editor on The Times. He is the author of nine books including Agent Zigzag, the number 1 bestseller Operation Mincemeat and, most recently, Double Cross.

He is also the writer of SAS Rogue Heroes – the inspiration for the hit drama series currently showing on BBC One and iPlayer.

Writer Alexander Cary said: “Macintyre’s books about spies from recent history are relevant and exciting because they examine the larger universal themes of human behavior that drive individuals among us, and like us, to excel in the murky world of espionage and, for better or worse, leave a lasting impact on the world.”

Talking about A Spy Among Friends, the Daily Mail said: “No one writes about deceit and subterfuge so dramatically, authoritatively or perceptively. To read A Spy Among Friends is a bit like climbing aboard a runaway train in terms of speed and excitement - except that Macintyre knows exactly where he is going and is in total control of his material.”

A Spy Among Friends cast

Damian Lewis in A Spy Among Friends ITV

The series will star Golden Globe and Emmy winner Damian Lewis (Homeland, Billions) and Emmy winner Guy Pearce (Jack Irish, Mare of Easttown). Lewis also worked on the series as an executive producer.

"It’s an honour to be a part of this thrilling project,” said Pearce.

“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. I’m also very happy to be working again with the wonderful and talented Nick Murphy."

BAFTA-winner Nick Murphy (Save Me) directs the series.

Adrian Edmondson in A Spy Among Friends ITV

A Spy Among Friends full cast list

  • Damian Lewis - Plays Nicholas Elliott
  • Guy Pearce - Plays Kim Philby
  • Anna Maxwell Martin (Motherland, Line of Duty) - Plays Lily Thomas
  • Stephen Kunken (Billions, The Handmaids Tale) - Plays James Jesus Angleton
  • Adrian Edmondson (The Pact) - Plays Sir Roger Hollis
  • Anastasia Hille (Baptiste) - Plays Flora Solomon
  • Lucy Akhurst - Plays Elizabeth Elliott
  • Gershwyn Eustache Jnr - Plays Robert Thomas

Damian Lewis - Plays Nicholas Elliott

Damian Lewis in A Spy Among Friends ITV

"Elliott’s tragic arc is that because of his adoration and love for Philby, he really facilitated his treachery over the 30 years," said Lewis.

"He kept excusing him, kept defending him every time it seemed like Philby would be exposed.

"And then, in a sort of perfectly piquant way, Elliott was the man sent to Beirut to investigate, to interrogate Philby and to bring him home. And unbelievably, the job Philby was doing in Beirut was one for The Observer that actually, Elliott had got for him in order to take the heat off him."

Guy Pearce - Plays Kim Philby

Guy Pearce as Kim Philby ITV

"I spent the entire shoot having moments every few days going, ‘I cannot believe this actually happened'. I cannot believe that for 30 years he was able to get away with this'," said Pearce.

"It's well referenced in our story that the elite class in Britain on some level had become lazy. Once they knew who your father was, once they knew what school you went to, once they knew who you're associated with they tended to just immediately go, ‘Oh, well, you're one of us. Yeah, job done.’

"Philby and other double agents exploited that. But it was still life and death stuff and like I say, I was constantly amazed that week after week, month after month, year after year, Philby was getting away with what he was getting away with."

Anna Maxwell Martin - Plays Lily Thomas

Anna Maxwell Martin in A Spy Among Friends ITV

"I'm playing a fictional character called Lily Thomas," said Maxwell Martin.

"She's the only person in in the programme who didn't actually exist. She works for MI5 and she's brought in to investigate Nicholas Elliott's [Damian Lewis] involvement in Kim Philby’s [Guy Pearce] defection to the Soviet Union.

"She’s appointed because she's sort of a wolf in sheep's clothing. She looks very unassuming. She's a woman. I wear lots of dowdy, woolly tights! But she's really clever and she knows how to infiltrate what is going on with Philby.

"Lily is a brilliant device really, thought up by Alex [Cary, writer], because she's a personification of how we will judge Nicholas Elliott and his actions. Then it morphs into a relationship. She's the antithesis of the world she finds herself in, the world that Elliot and Philby are in which is sort of toffs, for whom you’re doing the wrong thing by wearing the wrong tie. She's the opposite of that. She isn't bothered about tradition, or what’s the right way or wrong way."

How to watch A Spy Among Friends on ITVX

A Spy Among Friends is released on Thursday, 8 December on ITVX.

ITVX is the new free streaming service from ITV, replacing the ITV Hub.

ITVX will be rolling out across devices and platforms in the coming weeks.

At launch, viewers will have access to over 10,000 hours of content, and ITVX will also drop new and exclusive programmes every week of the year.

Viewers can also expect the full range of ITV drama past and present to go on the service, as well as  documentaries, cult classics and hundreds of blockbuster films/

All ITV’s channels will be available to livestream through ITVX, as well as additional themed channels (known as FAST channels), and a dedicated news section on ITVX.

The standard ITVX is free, but a premium subscription service is available, which means viewers can watch ad-free and will also be given access to BritBox

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