Premiering Sunday, June 17, Deep State is the latest offering from the premium cable network Epix. The new show looks to be a mix between Taken, Homeland, and 24, and stars Mark Strong as a former spy. Max Easton has been trying to live off the grid with his family for the past 10 years when he's forced to come out of hiding for one final mission. So is Deep State's Max Easton a real person, or is he just the next in a long line of Jack Bauer impersonators?
By the looks of things, the main plot of Deep State is fiction, not fact, but the circumstances sound just plausible enough to be real. And creator Matthew Parkhill told World Screen that he was inspired by an article he'd come across about how a company in Texas made money from the Iraq War. (The term "deep state" refers to the idea that people with influence work behind the scenes to drive governing and politics, sometimes for their own gain.) But the plot of the Epix series involves someone who used to be in the field. There is no indication, however, that Max is meant to resemble one particular real person.
"Max is an ex-government operative," Mark Strong explains in the below teaser. "He gave up being a spy, so for the last 10 years, he's been living in France with his new family. He's got two beautiful daughters, a wife. It's a pretty idyllic start, and it's pretty much downhill from there."
Per the Epix website, Max has been brought out of retirement to avenge the death of his son, Harry. "[Max] finds himself amid a covert intelligence war, immersed in a conspiracy to profit from chaos in the Middle East," the synopsis continues.
What's more, audiences can glean from the show's trailer that, while Max is gone on his final mission (although "final" seems highly unlikely, given that the show is just beginning), his wife, Anna (Lyne Renee), begins going through his things and realizes that she doesn't know him at all. "The more information she finds out, the more she comes to the conclusion that her entire life has been a complete lie," Renee explains in the teaser.
In fact, these conflicting parts of Easton's character are what attracted Strong to the role. As the actor told Vanity Fair:
“That’s the bit that I found interesting. That these people, who are doing this nefarious activity, also have wives and children. This particular character, Max Easton, is trying to do good, and sees himself as morally sound, but obviously a lot of the choices that he makes get him and the people around him into trouble. I had to work out how somebody could exist like that. By joining MI6, he’s trying to make the world a better place in his own way. It’s only over a period of time that the things he’s asked to do become disgusting to him.”
Deep State also stars Anastasia Griffith as Amanda Jones; Karima McAdams as Leyla Toumi; Joe Dempsie as Max's son from a previous marriage, who is killed in the line of duty; and Alistair Petrie, who, per the trailer, appears to play a villainous character named George White.
While Epix is mainly a movie streaming channel, it has recently made its foray into original content, such as the comedy series Get Shorty — a remake of the 1995 comedy starring Bridesmaids' Chris O'Dowd and the ubiquitous Ray Romano. So if Deep State is successful, it will be a huge get for the network.
However, if the trailer and teasers are any indication, Deep State looks to be a violent show that isn't for the faint of heart. And since the show deals with Middle Eastern conflict, it remains to be seen if the series will deal with its subjects in a respectful way. Shows like 24 and Homeland, both of which centered around anti-terrorism plots, were often lambasted for being Islamophobic.
So while many viewers will be watching those portrayals closely, Deep State also promises to be a high-stakes thriller featuring even higher levels of corruption — which, to some degree, have been influenced by the real world.