Allen Leech, best known for playing Tom Branson on BBC’s Downton Abbey, stars alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in the critically-lauded Alan Turing biopic, The Imitation Game.

Allen Leech On ‘Imitation Game’

In The Imitation Game, Leech plays John Cairncross, one of the cryptologists hired to help the British crack the German Enigma Code and end World War II. While working with Turing (Cumberbatch), Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) and Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard), Cairncross is spying for the Soviet Union and passing along their findings. For Leech, he had to approach the duality of his character in a way that felt honest.

“[John] had such conviction that what he was doing was the right thing. That’s the only way you can play that,” Leech told uInterview in an exclusive interview. “If you try and play the fact that he’s a spy or you try and give away tell tale signs I think you cheat the audience of the big reveal when it comes and that’s something that you have to kind of battle with.”

“The fact is that he was able to operate as a spy up until the very end of the war, so he was obviously very good at hiding what he was doing so you have to portray it in that way,” Leech added.

Before Leech took on the part of John Cairncross, he not only knew very little about the double agent, but also very little about the central figure in cracking Enigma – Alan Turing. Leech was troubled by his own lack of knowledge about the war hero, but found a common ground and a common cause with his costars, who’d likewise been ill-informed about Turing’s heroism and eager to share his story with the masses.

“When I read the script, the first thing I thought when I closed the last page, I was angry that I didn’t know more about this man. I was also embarrassed,” Leech admitted. “Everyone in the cast kind of felt the same thing and it was great then that we all went into making this movie with the same idea, which was that we wanted more people to know about his life – one of the greatest minds that ever existed and also a war hero and a man we all owe so much to.”

Cumberbatch, who received a Golden Globe nomination for playing Alan Turing and is expected to earn an Oscar nod as well, was a pleasure to work with, according to Leech, who’d relish the chance to shoot another film with the actor. “He’s a wonderful actor and a fantastic professional,” Leech gushed over his costar. “A very warm actor as well; when you act opposite of him he’s very generous with his performance. I loved it.”


Q: In ‘The Imitation Game’ your character John gets into a rather large confrontation with Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. What was it like to shoot that scene with Benedict? -

It was wonderful, all the scenes that we had with Benedict and being part of that team was a great privilege and honor. He’s a wonderful actor and a fantastic professional. A very warm actor as well; when you act opposite of him he’s very generous with his performance. I loved it. I would love to work with him again. It’d be amazing.

Q: How much of Alan Turing’s story did you really know before you started shooting the film? -

I didn’t know that much about him at all. I remember when I read the script, the first thing I thought when I closed the last page, I was angry that I didn’t know more about this man. I was also embarrassed. Everyone in the cast kind of felt the same thing and it was great then that we all went into making this movie with the same idea, which was that we wanted more people to know about his life – one of the greatest minds that ever existed and also a war hero and a man we all owe so much to. The fact that this movie now is having the life it is means that people are talking about Alan Turing and that’s amazing for us.

Q: Like Alan, your character has a big secret in the film. How did you want to convey that? -

I think in my research, John talks a lot about what he did in relation to being a double agent for the Soviets. He had such conviction that what he was doing was the right thing, that’s the only way you can play that. If you try and play the fact that he’s a spy or you try and give away tell tale signs I think you cheat the audience of the big reveal when it comes and that’s something that you have to kind of battle with. As an actor you want to give a certain amount, but you have to just reign that in because the fact is that he was able to operate as a spy up until the very end of the war so, he was obviously very good at hiding what he was doing so you have to portray it in that way.