Hannah Khalique-Brown is a grafter. To prepare for her role as coding prodigy Saara Parvin in An Undeclared War – Channel 4’s new dystopian drama which she stars in opposite Adrian Lester, Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance – she went the extra mile. “I decided to teach myself how to code,” she tells me via Zoom. “I learnt two programming languages. [Saara is] a hacker, so she does reverse engineering, so I did a course for reverse engineering, too.”
Watching the tense series now, it is hard to imagine anyone but Khalique-Brown in the role of Parvin, but it wasn’t a given. “I got the role, basically a year after I first auditioned. It was a long process. I did know that I really wanted this one,” until she did, of course. Keeping an emotional distance from the roles she auditioned for was crucial, she tells me. “Just because it’s so unlikely to go your way.” A humble confession, especially for a rising star. (Khalique-Brown landed herself and agent in her second year at uni and balanced her studies and auditions and roles in Doctors and short indie film Muse.)
Coding has turned into a new passion, with unexpected benefits. “I had never really worked out how to manage anxiety before [I learnt to code]. Now, if I get stressed or anxious, I just do a bit of coding. You can kind of just forget all of your troubles when you have a problem in front of you and you’re just trying to solve it,” she tells. me. “It feels like all your problems float into this outer bubble, and you’re in this inner bubble. They’re still there, but they’re just not bothering you.”
Magic is another life-long passion of Khalique-Brown’s, especially when it comes to Derren Brown “I don’t even know where to begin,” she laughs, “I’m getting tears in my eyes thinking about it!” Her love of his writing runs so deep that she wrote an essay on one of his books at university. “I’m a sucker for magic, I’m like a little kid. I love being bewildered and bamboozled, but it genuinely changed my life reading his work. It’s been such a source of companionship to me.”
Get to know more about Khalique-Brown in her Bustle Booth questionnaire below.
In The Bustle Booth
What's your coffee order?
I always feel embarrassed to admit this but I don’t drink coffee... I have actually never drank a cup of coffee. Ever. I’ve tried sips of it and I think it tastes bad. So I sustain myself on tea. Gallons of English Breakfast tea.
What are the saved weather locations on your phone?
London, where I live. Birmingham, where I grew up. Newport, Cardiff, and Bristol where we shot The Undeclared War. Reading, which must be from when I went to Reading festival in like 2015?! And Paris, which I've visited a few times and absolutely adore. But I haven’t been on holiday in years. I’d blame it on lockdown but it’s actually because I’m too attached to my job.
What’s your sign?
Favourite overused movie quote?
“Here’s looking at you, kid” from Casablanca, my Dad’s favourite film. Or “Get in loser, we’re going shopping” from the equally iconic Mean Girls.
What was your favourite cartoon as a kid?
The Simpsons. Me and my brother would slump ourselves on the sofa at 6 p.m. every day after school, turn on Channel 4 and watch it religiously whilst scoffing copious amounts of Wotsits. Those were the days.
What’s one movie or TV show you're currently obsessed with?
I’m currently watching Stranger Things 4! But honestly, I am constantly watching films and series. The only thing I seem to do with my time when I’m not working is watching other people’s stuff. I’ve managed to convince myself it counts as “homework.”
Who is your celeb idol?
I have too many acting idols to list them all, but music-wise it would be Lana Del Rey, whose music and writing has been a huge part of my life for about a decade. Bit rogue, but my celeb idol is Derren Brown. I love that man and all of his work and writing. Just trust me. Legend.
If you had to be on a reality TV show, what would it be?
Strictly Come Dancing. I think dancing is one of the most joyous things in the world. I’d really love to learn Ballroom and Latin. I’m a huge fan of the show too – me and my mum watch it every year so I’d actually love to do it one day, if I were ever asked!
Go-to karaoke song?
I was going to say Hey Ya! by Outkast because I did that with my friends on a camping trip once, but we actually got booed. So maybe not. Anything Britney or from my ‘00s bangers playlist.
What’s something that’s inspiring you lately?
I just finished reading Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl which was amazing. But my acting coach, Laurence Mitchell ,and all of my friends constantly inspire me to no end.
What is something you would want people to say about you?
I mostly hope that people find me kind and caring.