Eight part drama The Serpent starts on BBC One at 9 pm on New Year’s Day and the BBC has revealed everything you need to know
Inspired by real events, BBC One’s new eight-part drama The Serpent tells the remarkable story of how the conman and murderer Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim) was brought to justice.
Posing as a gem dealer, Sobhraj and his girlfriend Marie-Andrée Leclerc (Jenna Coleman) travelled across Thailand, Nepal and India in 1975 and 1976, carrying out a spree of crimes on the Asian ‘Hippie Trail’ and becoming the chief suspects in a series of murders of young Western travellers.
As Sobhraj repeatedly slips from the grasp of authorities around the world, Herman Knippenberg (Billy Howle), a junior diplomat at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok, unwittingly walks into his intricate web of crime. Knippenberg sets off an extraordinary chain of events that will see Sobhraj become Interpol’s most wanted man, with arrest warrants in multiple continents.
Ellie Bamber also stars as Angela Knippenberg. The cast includes Amesh Edireweera, Mathilde Warnier, Grégoire Isvarine and Tim McInnerny. The series was conceived and developed by Tom Shankland and Richard Warlow, and written by Richard Warlow and Toby Finlay.
In an interview for the BBC, Rahim talks about how he approached the role:
It wasn’t easy to be seductive and mysterious enough to draw people in, but at the same time be scary enough for the audience. You have to be aware that there’s an audience watching you, but at the same time you have the characters who are in front of you, who in most cases can’t be scared of Charles – otherwise he doesn’t con them
Jenna Coleman is also interviewed; she talks about the challenge of playing a French Canadian speaking both English and French (and Coleman herself is Northern and struggles with rolling her Rs! She was attracted the ambiguity at the heart of her character and said: I do think there’s a choice that she makes – and the choice that she makes is to ignore the truth.
You can find cast, writer and production interviews in the BBC’s media pack.