Jenna Coleman to star in BBC1 serial killer drama based on astonishing true story

Jenna Coleman
(Image credit: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Bvl)

Doctor Who and Victoria star Jenna Coleman heads the cast of new drama The Serpent which tells the true story of 70s serial killer

Actress Jenna Coleman is to star in new BBC1 crime drama, The Serpent, which tells the astonishing true story of Charles Sobhraj, a serial killer who targeted Western travellers during the 70s and became one of Interpol’s most wanted men.

Doctor Who and Victoria star, Jenna, will star as Marie -Andree Leclerc, the partner and accomplice of Sobhraj, played by award-winning French actor, Tahar Rahim (The Looming Tower, A Prophet).

French actor Tahar Rahim will star as the notorious 70s serial killer

French actor Tahar Rahim will star as the notorious 70s serial killer (Image credit: Arno LAM)

The eight part series for BBC1 and Netflix, which has begun filming on location in Thailand, also stars Billy Howle (MotherFatherSon, Dunkirk) and Ellie Bamber (Les Misérables, Nocturnal Animals) and will follow the plight of one of the most elusive criminals of the 20th century who was eventually  caught and brought to trial.

Psychopath, con man, thief and master of disguise, Charles Sobhraj was the chief suspect in the unsolved murders of up to 20 young Western travellers on the "hippie trail"  across India, Thailand and Nepal through 1975 and 1976 and repeatedly slipped from the grasp of authorities worldwide. By 1976 he had arrest warrants on three different continents.

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Actor Billy Howle (pictured above) will play junior diplomat Herman Knippenberg

Actor Billy Howle (pictured above) will play junior diplomat Herman Knippenberg

When Herman Knippenberg (played by Billy 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 sees the two men engaged in a chase across the borders of the Hippie Trail, as Knippenberg seeks to bring Sobhraj to justice for his terrible crimes.

Ellie Bamber stars as Knippenberg’s wife, Angela

Ellie Bamber stars as Knippenberg’s wife, Angela

Speaking about her role Jenna, who more recently starred in The Cry, 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."

Tahar Rahim says: “I am thrilled to play Charles Sobhraj in The Serpent, a role I have dreamed of portraying since I read a book about him when I was seventeen years old.”

The series is written by Richard Warlow (Ripper Street) and Toby Finlay (Ripper Street) and directed by Tom Shankland (Les Miserables) and will premiere on BBC1 in the UK, and on Netflix outside of the UK and Ireland.

Main picture of Jenna Coleman: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Bvlgari UK

Tess Lamacraft
Senior Writer for What's On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite week,

Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.