TV & Movies

Who Plays The Serpent's Charles Sobhraj?

The actor plays a notorious serial killer in the BBC's brand new true-crime drama.


The stranger-than-fiction story of serial killer Charles Sobhraj is the subject of a brand new BBC true-crime drama, The Serpent. Whilst exploring Sobhraj's abhorrent crimes, the series also delves into his relationship with a long-time accomplice, and details how a young diplomat managed to bring Sobhraj's killing spree to a grinding halt. But, who is Tahar Rahim, the actor who plays Charles Sobhraj in The Serpent?

Tahar Rahim is a French actor who hails from the northeastern city of Belfort. Some of his previous on-screen credits include BBC Two’s The Looming Tower, in which he played the character of Ali Soufan, the 2018 film Mary Magdalene, the 2013 French–Italian–Iranian drama The Past, the 2011 historical-war flick Black Gold, and The Project. As the Radio Times reports, Rahim also starred in the Oscar-nominated French crime drama A Prophet, and one of the actor's more recent performances can be enjoyed in Damien Chazelle’s Netflix miniseries, The Eddy.

As mentioned previously, Rahim appears in BBC's The Serpent as the elusive international serial killer Charles Sobhraj, who targeted young Western travellers across the so-called Asian ‘Hippie Trail’ throughout the 1970s, managing to slip from the grasp of authorities across the globe. Joining Rahim in the drama's cast is Victoria's Jenna Coleman as Sobhraj’s partner and accomplice Marie-Andrée Leclerc, and Dunkirk star Billy Howle as Herman Knippenberg, a junior diplomat at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok who helped orchestrate Sobhraj’s eventual capture, the Radio Times reports.


Speaking to press ahead of the drama's New Year's Day debut, Rahim discussed his preparations for a role of this nature, outlining the initial struggles he faced whilst building the character of Sobhraj. "It was hard for me to capture him, to understand him, because how can you possibly be real and in a way truthful when you have to portray those types of people? They’re psychopaths, murderers, they don’t have any empathy for anyone," the actor explained.

As Metro reports, Rahim further divulged how he studied pictures, videos and recordings of the notorious killer, which led him to visualise Sobhraj as a cobra, because, although dangerous, they still manage to possess "a kind of charm."

The Serpent begins on Friday, Jan. 1 at 9 p.m. on BBC One.