Is ‘Treason’ Based on a True Story? Netflix Show Origins Explained

In Netflix‘s Treason, one thing is clear to MI6 agent Adam Lawrence (Charlie Cox): as his career rises to new heights he can trust no one.

This comes to a head when Adam is unexpectedly thrust into the top position of the British intelligence service and his past begins to catch up with him, namely Russian spy Kara Yerzov (Olga Kurylenko) with whom he shares a complicated past.

Kara’s presence will not only challenge his loyalties but will also spark a series of events that will force Adam to do everything that he can to protect his family.

The drama was created by Matt Charman, the Oscar-nominated writer of Bridge of Spies, who spoke about the show at a press event which Newsweek attended, where he discussed its origins.

Is ‘Treason’ Based on a True Story?

Charlie Cox and Oona Chaplin as Adam Lawrence and Maddy de Costa in “Treason.”

Charman’s drama is full of twists and turns that will likely surprise the audience, particularly the relationship surrounding Adam, Kara, and Adam’s wife Maddy de Costa (Oona Chaplin) as they begin to unravel each other’s secrets at a price.

The show creator explained that he drew inspiration on Adam’s character from agents he has met in the past, saying: “What’s always struck me about those in that line of work is how brilliantly they fit into everyday life—how well and easy it would be to meet them at a party or sit next to them on the tube, have a little chat with them and not know what they do for a living.

“These are people who aren’t just good at pretending to be part of us, they are part of us. They’re drawn from our world and our society.

“I wanted Adam to feel that way; I wanted him to feel like someone you might have gone to university with or who you might have bumped into in a supermarket or a book shop. He had to feel real and relatable and fallible, and that was my starting point for him.”

But the story of Treason is a work of fiction that he hopes has a “big, twisty plot” that brings to mind classics of the spy genre, such as the work of the late British author John Le Carré.

Charman also admitted it was “very hard” to do research for the drama because “you can’t get access to [MI6] and no-one who works there will talk to you, so what you have to do is kind of make an imaginative leap.”

“There are plenty of books based on MI6 and how it operated in the past, and there are organizations like GCHQ and others that now roll into M16, so you read around it and try and make a leap that feels grounded,” he said of prepping for Treason.

“That was the biggest part of this show for me. I love Bond movies but a lot of the time when we watch spy stories on film and TV they don’t feel real to us.

“They feel a little elevated but I wanted this to feel like we could imagine this guy going to work, we could imagine what he was doing and the toll it takes on him, then he comes home and he has to have dinner with his kids and not tell them a thing. That’s real and it happens to people.”

Charman later added: “The thing I was hellbent on doing was to make that world feel simultaneously alluring and dangerous but also very real for the people who live and work in it.”

Treason is out on Netflix now.

Olga Kurylenko in Treason
Olga Kurylenko as Kara in “Treason,” which is out on Netflix now.
Ana Blumenkron/Netflix

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