The Serpent: Jenna Coleman stars in BBC series trailer
All eight episodes of The Serpent are streaming on the BBC iPlayer now, with episodes airing every Sunday at 9pm on the BBC iPlayer. The series stars Tahar Rahim as Charles Sobhraj and Jenna Coleman as Marie-Andrée Leclerc. Billy Howle takes on the role of Dutch junior diplomat, Herman Knippenberg and viewers are curious to know more about the actor. Express.co.uk has everything you need to know.
Who is Billy Howle?
Billy Howle is a British film and television actor from Stoke-on-Trent.
The Serpent viewers may recognise the 31-year-old actor from his role as Caden Finch in BBC’s MotherFatherSon.
In MotherFatherSon, he starred alongside Helen McCrory, Ciarán Hinds and Elena Anaya.
He is also well known for starring opposite Saoirse Ronan in the 2017 film On Chesil Beach as Edward Mayhew.
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Growing up, Howle was involved in the Scarborough music scene before pursuing acting as a career.
At age 18, he left Scarborough to study drama at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School for three years.
His first major role was as James Warick in the E4 series, Glue, alongside Yasmin Paige and Jordan Stephens in 2014.
He went on to star in New Worlds as Joseph and in The Witness for the Prosecution as Leonard Vole.
In 2017, Howle starred in the Christopher Nolan war film Dunkirk as Petty Officer.
He then went on to star as Konstantin Treplyov in the film adaption of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull alongside Saoirse Ronan, Anette Bening, Elizabeth Moss and Corey Stole.
Howle portrayed Edward, Prince of Wales in Netflix’s Outlaw King in 2018 and landed the role of Rey’s father in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
In The Serpent, Howle takes on the role of Herman Knippenberg a former Dutch diplomat, who was based at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand in the 1970s.
He had begun looking into the disappearance of two Dutch travellers, Henk Bintanja, 29 and Cornelia Hemker, 25, in 1976 and soon discovered the pair were not only dead but had been murdered.
Knippenberg, who was 31-years-old at the time, began his search for their killer, leading himself down a dark path of murder and deceit as he hunted for a serial killer.
Howle spoke to Express.co.uk and other press about taking on the role of Herman Knippenberg.
He also described meeting the real Knippenberg during filming in Thailand as “enlightening”.
Howle said: “When I spoke to Herman, it was incredibly enlightening… not only [for] the story, but his perception of the story and the events that took place are so far removed from my own experience in life that it wasn’t immediately relatable.
“So there was a lot of groundwork that needed to be done and I was very fortunate in being able to build that bond with Herman quite early on because he was able to fill in those gaps and increase my understanding of the situation.”
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Alongside his wife Angela (played by Ellie Bamber), and the help of Belgian diplomat, Paul Siemons (Tim McInnerny), they began to delve deeper a series of murders across the Hippie Trail in the late 1970s, leading them Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim).
Sobhraj is believed to have killed over a dozen travellers on the Hippie Trail through Nepal, Thailand and India.
Today, Charles Sobhraj, 76, is serving out a life sentence in Kathmandu prison, Nepal.
Howle asked the real Herman why he pursued Sobhraj to which Herman replied: “Who cares?”
Howle said: “It’s a sort of moral question: what drives a man to do such heinous things as Charles Sobhraj has done? And interestingly, when I spoke to the real Herman, he said, ‘Who cares?’ And that was quite amazing for me to hear, and I kind of understood straight away what he meant.
“Well really no, it’s not about trying to understand what drives him [Sobhraj] to do that, it’s about stopping it. And you know in a sense, how dare another human being do that to innocent people?
“So it’s a sort of moral outrage that drives this fastidious investigation that he takes upon himself.
“It’s so unlikely, really, a person in this position doing the job that he was doing, for this to land on his desk, I think it is the moral outrage at the reality of this, the gravity of it, that drives him forward to want to stop it.”
The real Knippenberg has now retired and lives in New Zealand with his wife Vanessa. He has kept all of his files on Charles Sobhraj updated, catalogued and open to this day.
The Serpent is streaming on the BBC iPlayer now and airs every Sunday on BBC One at 9pm
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