'COBRA' star Robert Carlyle: ‘Paranoia ensues!’

Robert Carlyle in Cobra:Cyberwar
Robert Carlyle faces another emergency in political thriller COBRA:CYBERWAR. (Image credit: ©Sky UK Ltd)

COBRA is back for more political tension on Sky Max. Following the thrilling first season last year, which saw UK Prime Minister Robert Sutherland (Robert Carlyle) dealing with the devastating fallout from a solar storm, a fresh crisis awaits in COBRA: CYBERWAR, which has just started.

The six-part run sees Sutherland forced to call more charged COBRA meetings – discussions with key national figures in government, the armed forces, and the security services – to coordinate the response after a sunken World War Two ship causes devastation on the Kent coast and a mysterious cyber-attack threatens to paralyse the country following a shocking assassination. But Sutherland’s loyal Chief of Staff Anna Marshall (The Crown’s Victoria Hamilton) tries her best to support him.

Here, Robert Carlyle and Victoria Hamilton tells us more about COBRA season 2...

COBRA:CYBERWAR sounds even more dramatic than the first run. Tell us about the new threat...

Carlyle: “This threat’s considerable. They don’t know where it's coming from, but it's coming from somewhere bad. Sutherland doesn't know who to believe. He has a moral compass but paranoia ensues and we see the effect it has on him.” 

Hamilton: “There’s an element of, ‘Who is it? What do they want?’ But this sense of whodunnit is attached to a sense of dread as you realise how powerful countries play with those less powerful.”

What’s the relationship like between Sutherland and Anna now?

Hamilton: “Charged. They go through challenges and you see the effect that has personally.”

Carlyle “Does Sutherland even trust Anna? There's been an election, his majority's been reduced so he needs to form alliances with Archie Glover-Morgan [the reactionary former Home Secretary, played by David Haig], which is a problem for Anna because they don't get on.”

Victoria Hamilton in Cobra:Cyberwar

Victoria Hamilton is under pressure as Chief of Staff Anna Marshall in 'COBRA:CYBERWAR'. (Image credit: ©Sky UK Ltd)

Are their personal lives just as tumultuous?

Carlyle: “Yes, last series, with Sutherland’s wife Rachel and daughter Ellie there were issues and Rachel [Lucy Cohu] is now struggling.”

Hamilton: “For Anna, Ben Richards [the drama’s creator] had the courage to write a woman who is not only dealing with a divorce and a great loss this time, but also the menopause. Anyone living with a menopausal woman will recognise the outbursts!” 

Has this series made you concerned about a real potential cyber threat?

Carlyle: “It’s a worry and something I'm thinking more about now. You realise it can affect not just you personally, but the whole nation.”

Hamilton: “One thing that hit me was the power of rumour and the untrue stuff that can be put out by a hostile force. And, if you scare enough people, how that can cause breakdown in society and destroy lives without a shot being fired.” 

What were your most memorable scenes to film this time?

Hamilton: “I want to spend my life doing stunts. I’m happy running through burning buildings and away from bombs while wearing trench coats!”

Carlyle: “I have a tremendous speech to the nation where he’s laying himself bare. It took me a couple of months to learn. The COBRA meetings are tough though with everyone talking around the table and they take a long time to film. The dialogue’s dense. I’ve often felt sorry for actors in medical dramas, but I'm in a similar situation with political speak! And we film in a roofed box inside a studio so there’s an unsettling atmosphere. It takes incredible concentration to get through the day.” 

Has making the show changed your views on politicians?

Carlyle: “Anyone wanting to become a politician is suspect, it's strange that desire for power, I’d never go near it! But I have a different angle on these people now because you sense how difficult the job is. With COBRA, you're in their moment of decision seeing that pressure.”

Hamilton: “Yes, you can't help but empathise and this series you see psychologically what it does. I also found it fascinating watching the Dominic Cummings thing unfold with the whole ‘power behind the throne’, Anna’s the female version of him! The person outside Number 10 is hugely influenced by and dependent on people behind them who haven't been voted for. It’s an eye-opener.” 

When can I watch COBRA:CYBERWAR?

All six episodes are available on Sky Box Sets and NOW TV.

Caren Clark

Caren has been a journalist specializing in TV for almost two decades and is a Senior Features Writer for TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and What’s On TV magazines and she also writes for What to Watch.

Over the years, she has spent many a day in a muddy field or an on-set catering bus chatting to numerous stars on location including the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Suranne Jones, Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi as well as Hollywood actors such as Glenn Close and Kiefer Sutherland.

Caren will happily sit down and watch any kind of telly (well, maybe not sci-fi!), but she particularly loves period dramas like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Crown and she’s also a big fan of juicy crime thrillers from Line of Duty to Poirot.

In her spare time, Caren enjoys going to the cinema and theatre or curling up with a good book.