TELEVISION fanatics in the Tyne Valley watching the drama Cobra, currently airing on Sky, may have been surprised to hear Hexham crop up several times.

It’s unusual for the town to get national attention in TV shows like this, but the town has been the surprise focus of the six-part drama.

Named after the Government’s emergency committee, the show follows Prime Minister Robert Sutherland, played by Robert Carlyle, as he struggles to deal with a crisis caused by the sun.

A solar flare has caused a geomagnetic storm, frying the electricity grid and messing up all the plane navigation systems.

The resulting chaos sees fictional versions of the North-East’s emergency services called into action – including the Royal Northumberland Hospital and the Tyneside Police force which covers Hexham and Northumberland.

While the show’s geography has been called into question by some viewers (why were the victims of a plane crash near Newton Aycliffe taken to Hexham Hospital?) it’s always something of a pleasant surprise to see your hometown feature on prime-time television.

But for one Hexham resident, it came as a particular shock – because he’d actually been working on the show as an extra.

Wil Cheung, who owns the Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant on Battle Hill in the town, explained: “A few years ago, I decided I really wanted to be an extra in TV and film.

“I applied to an agency called Mad Dog, which is one of the biggest agencies in the country.

“I’ve done quite a bit since then, but the biggest one has been this Cobra one. I’d heard about Cobra, but I didn’t know much about it.

“In November, I drove down to the Manchester area and we went into an old storeroom converted into a hospital set.

“I didn’t know what I was doing. They gave me a hair cut and told me to go downstairs into a police control room.

Wil hadn’t been told many details about the show, so when it aired in mid-January, he was surprised to hear several references to Hexham.

Stranger still, Wil leads astronomy workshops at Kielder Observatory and the Sill where he discusses coronal mass ejections (CMES) – the type of solar phenomenon that causes such havoc in the show.

He continued: “My job was to put maps of the disaster up.

“The maps showed Newcastle, which I thought was quite funny. I could actually see my mum’s house on the maps!

“Normally we’re just background characters, but in one scene I walk right in front of the main character – my face takes up half the screen.

“When I watched it on TV in January, they kept mentioning Hexham and I’m just sat there like ‘what the hell, this is crazy!’

“It’s so surreal because here’s me running workshops at the Sill and the national park, and one of the main things I talk about is on the show.

“I’ve been an extra in about 14 or 15 things now – but for this one to be in Hexham – I just think it will never happen again!”