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The Serpent Trailer: Seduced By a Serial Killer’s Deadly Charm

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Tahar Rahim did not need to exaggerate the debonair intensity of the serial killer he portrays in The Serpent. “He was like this,” the actor insisted. “It’s a true story.” If anything, Rashim had to downplay the real man’s ostentatious qualities to make him seem believable. 

“He was dressing like this in life. It was even more fancy than that,” Rahim says of Charles Sobhraj, the con artist, thief and sociopath who, during his string of slayings in the 1970s, presented himself more like a model from a runway model from fashion week than a serial killer from a true crime magazine. “I remember one day, the director came over with the costume designer: ‘You know what? It’s too much,'” Rahim recalled. “‘He was fancy. He liked jewelry and fashion.”

That dashing style and charisma was part of what made Sobhraj so deadly, In this exclusive first trailer for the eight-episode Netflix drama, which debuts April 2, the killer’s superficial glamour is a contrast to his brutal crimes.

“The series is not made to glorify him,” said Rahim, a current awards contender for his performance in legal drama The Mauritanian, which he shot during a break in making The Serpent. “The thing we wanted the audience to feel is attraction, fear, and repulsion. He has something magnetic, so you can follow him.” That’s what drew hikers and tourists toward this strangely appealing character and his equally dazzling female accomplice when they met him in the remote towns and trails of Thailand, Nepal, and India. First he would try to sell them precious gems or drugs, but if those deals went badly, he would lash out in deadly ways, eliminating any witnesses to his scams and frauds.

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The series, a joint production of Netflix and the BBC, explores not just how Sobhraj and his partner, Marie-Andrée Leclerc (Jenna Coleman) targeted their victims, but also how the duo were ultimately uncovered and brought to justice, thanks to the persistence of a Dutch ambassador Herman Knippenberg (Billy Howle) and his team of investigators. “This guy is the real hero,” Rahim said. 

The title of the series comes from the notion that snakes can transfix their prey. “At the very beginning, I couldn’t understand how you could fall into his net,” Rahim said. ”I was like, ‘Man, if I meet this guy, he’s never going to get me. I’m too careful!’ But serial killers, they pick their prey. They observe. Charles would pick young backpackers, and he would try to sell them paradise, and then [gemstone] rocks, so they can sell it back in their countries and make money. When they wouldn’t accept, they were in trouble, because he was playing God. He was playing God a lot.”

The role is a stark departure from his Golden Globe-nominated work in The Mauritanian, in which he co-stars opposite Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley‘s crusading attorneys as Mohamedou Ould Salahi, a man who spent nearly a decade and a half being tortured and interrogated as a suspected terrorist at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Viewers unfamiliar with the true story might not be certain sure whether Salahi is guilty or not. 

“If you start the movie and you see instantly that he is innocent, there’s no suspense,” the actor said. “He’s very sharp, very funny, all of it. Considering the way Middle Eastern people or Muslim people are depicted usually, we were like, okay, he is a victim of a system, but we don’t want to victimize him. We don’t want him to behave like a victim.” 

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