15 Incredible Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Making Of "The Serpent"

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Who knew Thailand could be so easily replicated in the UK?

🚨 Warning, this post contains spoilers for The Serpent. 🚨

Did you know over 31 million people tuned in to watch the BBC crime thriller, The Serpent? The show follows the story of real-life serial killer and conman Charles Sobhraj, and tells how he was finally brought to justice.

Here are some amazing behind-the-scenes facts on how it was made:

1. The Serpent started development way back in 2013. The project was green-lit in 2017, and began production 2019.

Roland Neveu / BBC/© Mammoth Screen

The creative team behind the show wanted to make sure that every last detail of the story was as accurate as possible out of respect for the family members of those affected by Sobhraj's crimes.

2. Most of the show was filmed around Thailand, but the crew used a mix of visual effects and set dressing to make the country look like other locations, such as Delhi, Kathmandu, Afghanistan, and Paris.

Roland Neveu / BBC/© Mammoth Screen

3. Production started in August 2019, but came to a halt in March 2020 due to COVID.

Roland Neveu / BBC/© Mammoth Screen

After six months of filming, the crew only had two weeks left to finish the show before they needed to evacuate due to the worsening COVID crisis. The European cast and crew were all flown out of Thailand with less than a day's notice.

4. The break in production due to COVID allowed the filmmakers a very rare opportunity to take stock of what they had already shot, and re-work plans for future episodes.

Roland Neveu / BBC/© Mammoth Screen

The crew were able to go back through their existing footage and re-write upcoming scenes based on what they liked or didn't like. The scene with Ajay in the opening of episode six, for example, wasn't actually in the original script!

5. The production team later had to re-create major sets in the UK.

6. Outside of COVID, the crew's second biggest interference was Bangkok's incredibly unpredictable weather. Several outdoor scenes had to be re-shot three or four times!

Roland Neveu / BBC/© Mammoth Screen

Because of this unpredictability, the crew would often show up with backup scenes that they could film inside so as not to waste a production day.

7. Episodes were shot in two different blocks – the first four and then the last four – and were also filmed in order of location, as opposed to chronological order.

Roland Neveu / BBC/© Mammoth Screen

The first scenes to be filmed were the outdoor pool parties at Sobhraj's apartment.

8. The real Herman Knippenberg became involved in The Serpent back in 2013, when he gave the production team access to all of his own archive of documents and press cuttings.

Roland Neveu / BBC/© Mammoth Screen

9. As well as Herman, the real Nadine Gires and Sompol Suthimai came to set at various times.

Roland Neveu / BBC/© Mammoth Screen

Nadine was overwhelmed by how faithfully it recreated the period.

11. Jenna Coleman, Ellie Bamber, and Billy Howle all had to learn different languages and accents before filming.

Roland Neveu / BBC/© Mammoth Screen

Jenna had to learn French, Ellie had to learn Thai, and Billy had to learn Dutch. According to the BBC, Jenna even said it “became an intense French bootcamp” to train her northern British accent to be able to roll her r’s. Learning how to say “‘très bien’ correctly took her months.

12. Nadine, Herman, and his then-wife Angela Kane all provided the crew with personal photos to make sure that sets and wardrobes were as accurate as possible.

13. The creative team behind The Serpent never got in touch with the real Sobhraj out of respect for his victims' families.

Roland Neveu / BBC/© Mammoth Screen

Instead, they were able to use interview footage of Sobhraj from the 1970s, which they felt gave them enough information on his side of the story.

14. There were several events that happened in Sobhraj's real life story that didn't make it into the series because the writers didn't think people would actually believe them!

Roland Neveu / BBC/© Mammoth Screen

For example, it's a fact that Sobhraj escaped prison in India in the '80s by throwing a birthday party for a prison guard and poisoning the prison staff in the process.

It also happened that the first day of Herman's retirement was the same day he got the call saying Sobhraj had finally been caught! Writers thought these details were interesting, but far too farfetched to read as believable coincidences.

15. And lastly, Charles Sobhraj and Herman Knippenburg have never met face-to-face!

Roland Neveu / BBC/© Mammoth Screen

I guess I don't know how they would have, but after Herman dedicated so much of his career to capturing Sobhraj, I just kinda figured they would have met at least once!

Apart from where stated, all information comes from producer Paul Testar (Mammoth Productions). Special thanks to him and the BBC.

The Serpent is on BBC iPlayer in the UK, and on Netflix internationally outside of the UK.

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