Robert Carlyle: 'Before filming COBRA my sympathy for politicians was zero!'

Robert Carlyle on how his powerful new thriller COBRA has given him pause for thought about the world of politics

Sky One’s tense six-part political thriller COBRA explores the devastating fallout when a geomagnetic storm hits the UK.

Named after the famous COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Room) meetings at which senior politicians and experts decide on a plan of action during times of national emergency, the drama examines how anxious Prime Minister Robert Sutherland, played by War of the Worlds and Trainspotting actor Robert Carlyle, deals with the crisis.

Here, Robert Carlyle reveals all about leading the country through a disaster in Sky One thriller COBRA…

Tell us about Robert Sutherland…

Robert Carlyle: “He’s conflicted man. This crisis is not what he expected to deal with and he's trying to cope. From the word go, he's in trouble. One of the major reasons I took the job was that I liked that human struggle he has to go through. He’s balancing his family and what’s going on in the country.

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What impact does this geomagnetic storm have?

RC: “There is a major power stoppage and they have to decide what areas get the help first, and there’s a hard decision Robert has to make in terms of people’s lives. You see how flimsy government is when something like this happens because law and order break down quickly.”

Has filming this given you a new perspective on how tough it is to be a politician?

RC: “Yes, playing the PM has made me think about these people that I have dismissed the past. Before doing this, my sympathy was zero! But for somebody like Theresa May, who knows what was going on in her personal life? She was ageing by the week. I did feel for her as one human being to another.”

Victoria Hamilton as Chief of Staff Anna Marshall and Robert Carlyle as Prime Minister Robert Sutherland in COBRA

Victoria Hamilton as Chief of Staff Anna Marshall and Robert Carlyle as Prime Minister Robert Sutherland in COBRA (Image credit: Sky)

Have you enjoyed filming on the Downing Street set?

RC: “I’ve loved it, especially seeing a phone that says, ‘10 Downing Street: Cabinet Office’. I’ve had to do a speech outside Number 10 too and it’s one of those things you do in your career where you can put a little marker.”

Is being Prime Minister something you’d be keen on now then?!

RC: “Are you kidding?! I can’t think of anything worse. I get bored too quickly!”

COBRA airs on Friday 17 January on Sky One at 9pm and all episodes are available on Sky Box Sets, NOW TV and Virgin TV from the same date

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.