Having stared in Shameless, Liar and the hugely popular Luther alongside Idris Elba, Warren Brown is fast becoming one of Britain’s leading television actors. This autumn – like in Luther in which he played DC Justin Ripley (for which he was nominated for best supporting actor at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards) – Brown is set to play another policeman. Only this time it is behind enemy lines, in HISTORY’s Second World War drama X Company.
When Brown took on the role of Neil Mackay in X Company he didn’t know the story of Camp X, but then again not a lot of people do. “When I read the script, this was a story that I wasn’t familiar with. It really intrigued me, it was a huge part of history that I just wasn’t aware of.”
The series tells the story of Camp X, a secret spy school found on the shores of Lake Ontario, Canada, an unlikely location for one of most important covert initiatives of the Second World War. Funded by the British, Camp X became a hub for the training of allied spies which allegedly included 007 creator Ian Fleming and Norwegian author Roald Dahl. The series – which won Best Writing in a TV Drama at the 2017 Writers Guild of Canada – tells the story of five highly-skilled X Camp recruits from Canada, the US and Britain who have been torn from their everyday lives to train together as agents and fight against the Nazis.
Brown plays a British ‘bobby’ called Neil Mackay. Enlisted for his martial arts skills, Mackay becomes the ‘weapon’ of the group. He tells us, he “is loosely based on an instructor at Camp X, an English former policeman called William Fairbairn… the blueprint for the character was so in-depth.”
Like so many during this period, Brown’s character “witnessed the bombing, the blitz and has been personally affected by that, so I think there is an element of revenge. He also wants to do a good job and believes that they are on the right side of history.”
The series opens with the fast-paced action you’d expect from an espionage thriller. It’s 1942 and Brown and his team are behind enemy lines in Nazi occupied France. The Nazi’s are unaware of X Company’s presence, but they suspect something. The spy team desperately attempt to contact their colleagues in Canada from a make-shift radio line.
“So many of the missions were loosely based on actual events,” Brown tells us. When X Company aired in Canada the Huffington Post described the series as a “much-needed history lesson,” and Brown agrees. “I absolutely didn’t know about Camp X so I was really intrigued to hear the story and to hear just how important it was in the Allies winning the second world war. I learnt so much about this period during the job.”
Like HISTORY’s World War True Season, X Company explores the characters behind the triumphs and tragedies of the Second World War. As Brown tells us, “I came away really with having a better understanding and more respect for those who were doing this and going undercover during this time.”
The history surrounding the series has clearly made an impression on Brown. “This played a huge, huge, part in the Second World War. Ian Fleming is rumoured to have trained at Camp X so essentially that’s where James Bond stemmed from as well as all the founding members of the CIA. It’s made a huge impact without that many people knowing about it.”
Brown is also hoping that the series can speak to today. “Although it’s set in the 40s is still so relevant now because there are so many men and women operating around the world doing this type of job.”
While the series is informative, it’s not just a history lesson. “There is an element of fiction to it along with action, adventure and escapism all on a big scale. It’s really exciting.”
X Company is currently airing on HISTORY Tuesdays nights at 9pm, find out more here.