The hit Caribbean crime drama Death in Paradise returns to BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Sunday February 4th with a brand new series, kicking off with the show’s milestone 100th episode.
We’re back with the team on the idyllic Caribbean Island of Saint Marie with more ingenious murders to solve. In the series’ landmark 100th episode (episode one), Commissioner Selwyn Patterson (Don Warrington) celebrates 50 years of police service before coming face to face with a surprising enemy.
Meanwhile, DI Neville Parker (Ralf Little) continues to come to terms with the aftermath of ‘Sophie’s’ actions, Officer Marlon Pryce (Tahj Miles) confronts his future, DS Naomi Thomas (Shantol Jackson) lets loose to double date with Trainee Officer Darlene Curtis (Ginny Holder), and Catherine Bordey (Élizabeth Bourgine) finds herself embroiled in a murder case when an old friend becomes a suspect. New and returning faces arrive on Saint Marie, and Neville faces his biggest decision yet.
Will our hapless detective finally get his happy ever after? There’s also a deadly game of bingo, a poisoning at a cookery competition, death during a blackout and a mystifying murder in a lift.
We talked to star Ralf Little (DI Neville Parker) about the show and his role in it.
You are Death in Paradise’s longest serving Detective Inspector and in the show as it reaches 100 episodes. How does it feel to be a part of that milestone?
Episode sixty nine was my first as DI Neville Parker, which is (almost) 7/10ths of the way to one hundred. So, the bulk of it was already there. But the idea that I’d be able to do another thirty one episodes on top of that to reach one hundred is astonishing. If I’m really honest, I was just hoping to get to the end of the first series and for everybody not to hate it. Everything after that was a bonus!
At the risk of sounding like a footballer going, “It’s all about the team”, these personal milestones are lovely to reach and they’re incredibly satisfying. But it is all about the show, the people loving it and everyone working together. For me to have been here and be lucky enough to lead a stellar cast and be trusted with this legacy is something I can’t believe. I thank my lucky stars every day and feel like I’ve won the lottery.
There was a lot for Neville to deal with towards the end of last series, how has he coped with moving on from ‘Sophie’, his girlfriend who framed him for murder?
With difficulty. He’s obviously very hurt and bruised by it and mistrustful of people. The concept of romance and love has left him extremely jaded. He feels like maybe it’s just not for him and that for some people, it just doesn’t work for them. We join him this series very much feeling like he’s one of those people and this is all just something he should give up on or he’ll get hurt again. He’s broken by the whole experience and ready to give up on the idea of loving in any way at all.
Can you tell us about some of the guest cast from this series?
It’s always nice to have friends come out which has been great for me, like Richard Fleeshman, who I’ve known for twenty years. He’s a great actor and a lovely lad.
It was very exciting to see Sean Maguire come back out too. He was in the first ever episode and came back to play the same character. That isn’t really referenced in the episode, but eagle-eyed viewers will clock that! I’ve met Sean a handful of times, and I just loved him. He was fun, funny, professional and a brilliant actor. I’m slightly annoyed though because he’s now the only other person apart from me to have done the show twice! Although that said, he was playing the same character and I’m the only person to have done it as two different characters, so I still have that little personal milestone!
And oh my God, Oscar winner Hayley Mills! She’s the one person I got starstruck by and had to get a photo with, she was just glorious. She’s been at the top of the film industry. She won an Oscar when she was a kid, “Whistle Down the Wind” is one of my favourite films of all time.
With somebody who has that reputation and experience, it wouldn’t be outside the realms of possibility for her to be diva-ish, difficult, demanding, but she was the most gentle, professional, sweet, fun, funny, gregarious person… just the dream! A living legend of the industry.
Also, Pearce Quigley and I have met each other a few times – he’s the funniest man in the world. He made me howl on this job so much. His delivery is so funny. When I heard he was coming out, I was absolutely delighted.
Do you have a favourite case this series?
We’ve got a cryptocurrency case which was an interesting one. The writers really do keep trying to find these new settings, stories, weird things and what reflects the modern world. The show has a slightly vintage feel but it’s also very modern. Looking into crypto hacking was great, someone gets electrocuted because they’re stealing power. I thought it was like the doomsday preppers episode from last year. There’s no reason why we wouldn’t have doomsday preppers in the valley. It’s not quite Doctor Who where you can literally do anything, but they sort of have the leeway to go, “let’s use our imaginations and see what might be in the world and then set it in what a Caribbean version would look like”. I think that’s great and this year, the writers have outdone themselves.
In episode one, we see the team fear for the Commissioner’s life. How does Neville deal with the news that Selwyn’s been shot? What was it like to shoot that episode?
Neville, like the rest of the team is really struggling with it. They don’t know if the Commissioner is going to be OK. Neville and the Commissioner appear to have a prickly relationship since he arrived, however, I don’t actually think they do. The Commissioner is like a father figure to Neville, and he’s been there every step of the way, even though he might be grumpy and standoffish.
Every time Neville looks like something’s about to get to him, he’ll have the support of the Commissioner who softens that little moment and offers him the right words at the right time. The Commissioner means everything to Neville.
It’s a really tough case for him and it’s our 100th episode, episode one. What could possibly have gone on? It’s a great one. I think people are going to love it as well as be worried. Make no mistake, our characters are absolutely desperate for things to work out. They all have a stake in it. It’s important to them to always solve the crimes but I don’t think we’ve ever had a crime where every single character has an emotional stake in solving it, and that gives the whole thing a new dynamic.
How do you think Neville has changed since his arrival on the island?
Greatly. His arc has always been to be bold enough to push himself out of his comfort zone. I’m still sick of reading about how he’s a hypochondriac. He’s not. We’ve made that clear right from the start. There were real issues that he was dealing with, but he’s learned that these are issues, and he must deal with them rather than hide away and protect himself. He faces them and lives a fuller and richer life for it. This series we’ve talked about how, due to the fallout from Sophie, he must do that all over again, but emotionally he has to kind of go, “No I shouldn’t have to hide away, I have to face down everything that’s out there, even if it’s painful and difficult.” It’s a massive emotional journey for him and a really satisfying one.
Neville takes up a new hobby, blogging, what’s it about and what does he hope to achieve from this?
I think that Neville’s blog is very Neville, in that, he’s fascinated by science and geometry and the natural world. It’s not a blog that I would write, but he decides it is going to be about his time on the island. It’s quite interesting and we have a nice joke about it in the show saying, “I’m sure lots of people out there would be interested to see the life of a British detective on a Caribbean island…”. That’s the nature of his blog. However, his first article is about conchology, or the study of seashells and it’s Marlon who is very quick to point out that he doesn’t think anyone is going to read this blog…
How does he get on with it?
No one really reads his blog, unsurprisingly. Apart from one fan, ‘Sunset Chaser’, who gets in touch to say his posts are interesting. The tone is flirty, and they are implied female, so Neville starts having a little bit of an online flirt. Marlon of course, thinks he’s being catfished by a guy. And Neville even starts to worry that maybe it could be Sophie who’s messing with his mind…
Do you have a favourite moment from filming Death in Paradise?
There’s been a few, mainly action-adventure things. In my first year, I was in a helicopter taking off from the football field, going over the sea and coming back and seeing turtles in the harbour. There is also a scene where me and Don Warrington drove a boat out to sea with a drone racing past. It is mad stuff like that you never think you’re going to get to do. Scuba diving here, getting a speedboat out to the islands there. The camaraderie, the fun, exploring the jungle, exploring the islands, the hot springs and all those social things make it special.
Also seeing people come through like heroes of mine, whether it’s Danny John-Jules, Robert Webb, Hayley Mills, or the people I’ve previously worked with like Joséphine Jobert. We’ve formed a bond that comes across on screen.