Is ‘Deep State’ Based On A True Story? The Spy Thriller Is Inspired By A Real & Deadly Political Scandal
A term that has been frequently referenced by President Donald Trump is "deep state." Because of that, you may be either intrigued or leery of the new Epix show premiering June 17 that shares that conspiracy theory's name. Yet, Deep State isn't based on a true story nor does it deal specifically with Trump or his rhetoric. Instead, it's an international spy thriller that follows Mark Strong's ex-MI6 agent as he's forced back into the game because of his son (Game Of Thrones' Joe Dempsie).
As Deadline reported, Deep State was produced by Fox Network Group's Europe and Africa division, but it will come to the U.S. on this Sunday. But even though the eight-part series is fictional and was created for an international audience, it will still feel relevant to Americans due to the real geopolitical themes that the show explores.
As the cast of Deep State explained in an Epix YouTube video for the series, "deep state" refers to unelected officials in the government who use their power to manipulate or control political policy. Trump believes that a deep state in the U.S. exists and that this under-the-radar network is trying to undermine his authority. However, the creator, writer, and director of Deep State, Matthew Parkhill, explained in the video that the term "deep state" originated in Turkey, so it's not strictly an American idea.
In an interview with World Screen, Parkhill said that the show, which was originally titled The Nine, was greenlit during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Yet, the British Parkhill was inspired to create Deep State after he read an article about an American company's involvement in the Iraq War years ago. As he explained to World Screen, the Texas-based engineering and construction company KBR made nearly $40 billion from the Iraq War. "I started to think, how do you start to guarantee that kind of return? And out of that idea came this idea, well, what if a company like that started infiltrating intelligence services?" Parkhill said. "So the political idea came out of that article."
Parkhill also went into more depth to World Screen about how "deep state" originated in Turkey. As Parkhill said, there was an assassination attempt on a Turkish politician in 1996. He survived and The New York Times reported that high-level Turkish security officials were accused of hiring criminals to attack enemies of the government. It was known as the Susurluk scandal, and Al Jazeera reported that this incident revealed the existence of a "deep state" in Turkey. So though Trump's frequent use of the phrase wasn't an inspiration, Parkhill admitted to World Screen, "It just happens to be very timely right now and once the title changed to Deep State, the scope of the show broadened."
Parkhill also spoke to ex-intelligence officers to get their perspective while making Deep State. He told World Screen that he reviewed the show with a former MI6 operative. "It is entertainment and we do take license, but I said to him, 'Look I want to run the story by you. Like if you watched it, just how far off the mark are we. How believable is it?'" Parkhill said. "He said to me, 'You know, you have no idea how close to the truth you really are.' The show's a very grounded show."
In an interview with TVBIZZ Magazine, Parkhill said that Deep State also stays grounded in reality because Strong's character Max Easton is impacted personally by these spy games. "I spoke to an ex-intelligence officer about this and one thing he said that really stuck in my head was, 'The people who do these things and lead these lives, they don't emerge unbroken, they don't emerge unscathed.' In that respect, Max is a more real and grounded character than maybe James Bond," Parkhill told TVBIZZ. "The people who do this job, it takes a toll on them and breaks them and that's what I found fascinating about Max."
Parkhill also discussed with World Screen and TVBIZZ that he was influenced by the film Syriana. As NPR reported, the George Clooney movie was inspired by former CIA officer Robert Baer's memoir See No Evil. He told TVBIZZ that he finds the film to be a "fascinating example of something that can be both intelligent and exciting and engaging."
But, of course, world news was still a major source for Parkhill. "Luckily Matthew Parkhill is incredibly well-read and very 'up' on everything that is going on in the world," Deep State producer Tom Nash said, according to the U.K.'s Express. "When we were in the writers' room we were constantly talking about what was in the news, the new administration in the U.S., stories coming out of the U.K., and we felt that it was very important to reflect that."
Parkhill's story about MI6 operative Max Easton is fiction, but it does showcase the type of "deep state" that Trump fears exists against him. And Deep State even takes a shot at the current American president. The Boston Herald reported that one character says, "The [president] tweets like a teenage girl — you really think we're gonna leave it up to him?" So while Deep State isn't a true story or about Trump, it still might feed the president's paranoia.