Jenna Coleman (Victoria, The Cry, Doctor Who), Billy Howle (MotherFatherSon, Dunkirk, On Chesil Beach) and Ellie Bamber (Les Misérables, Nocturnal Animals, The Falling) have been cast in lead roles in The Serpent.
Filming has now begun on the Mammoth Screen-produced series, which as previously announced will co-star Tahar Rahim as Charles Sobrhaj, one of the most elusive criminals of the 20th century.
Jenna Coleman will play Marie-Andrée Leclerc, Sobhraj’s partner and frequent accomplice, with Billy Howle and Ellie Bamber cast as Herman and Angela Knippenberg.
Charles Sobhraj (Rahim) was the chief suspect in the unsolved murders of up to 20 young Western travellers across India, Thailand and Nepal’s ‘Hippie Trail’ in 1975 and 1976. Psychopath, con man, thief and master of disguise, having slipped repeatedly from the grasp of authorities worldwide, by 1976 serial killer Sobhraj was Interpol’s most wanted man and had arrest warrants on three different continents.
When Herman Knippenberg (Howle), a junior diplomat at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok, unwittingly walks into Sobhraj’s intricate web of crime, he sets off an extraordinary chain of events that will see Knippenberg seek to bring Sobhraj to justice for his terrible crimes.
On joining The Serpent, Jenna Coleman says: “The Serpent intoxicated me into the dark seductive world of Charles Sobhraj. I’m so looking forward to delving into hippie trail depths and bringing to life this unfathomable real life story alongside Tahar, Billy, Ellie, Tom, Richard and the wonderful cast and production team for the BBC and Netflix.”
Billy Howle says: “When I heard about the story behind The Serpent, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. What an interesting role, in a fascinating story, with a brilliant team behind it – shooting in such a great part of the world, as well. I feel really fortunate to be a part of this project.”
Ellie Bamber says: “I’m so honoured to join forces with Billy, Jenna, Tahar and The Serpent’s incredibly accomplished cast and production team. Discovering the Knippenbergs’ story has been every bit as inspiring as it is fascinating.
Preethi Mavahalli, executive producer for Mammoth Screen, adds: “I’m delighted that Richard and Toby’s exceptional scripts for The Serpent have attracted a cast of such extraordinary calibre. As we begin filming all the elements are in place to respectfully bring Herman Knippenberg’s brave and determined story to the screen.”
The Serpent’s cast will also feature Alice Englert (Top of the Lake), Mathilde Warnier (The Widow), Gregoire Isvarine (The Inside Game), Sahajak Boonthanakit (Only God Forgives), Fabien Frankel (Last Christmas), Chicha Amatayakul (Girl From Nowhere), Surasak Chaiyaat (Love Destiny), Ruby Ashbourne-Serkis (National Treasure), Armand Rosbak (De Slet van 6 vwo), Ellie de Lange (Keizersvrouwen), Ilker Kaleli (Poyraz Karayel) and screen newcomer Amesh Edireweera in key roles across the series.
The Serpent is an eight-part limited series. Commissioned by BBC One, it is produced by Mammoth Screen, part of ITV Studios, and is a co-production between BBC One and Netflix. It is written by Richard Warlow and Toby Finlay, directed by Tom Shankland and Hans Herbots, produced by Stephen Smallwood, and executive produced by Richard Warlow, Tom Shankland, Preethi Mavahalli and Damien Timmer for Mammoth Screen, Lucy Richer for the BBC and will be handled by Carolyn Newman for Netflix.
The series is filming on location in Thailand and will premiere on BBC One in the UK, and on Netflix outside of the UK and Ireland.