Some things you can fake, some you cannot. Anyone watching Death in Paradise, BBC1’s crime drama set in the West Indies, can be in no doubt that it’s the real Caribbean. “You couldn’t make this at Pinewood,” says the show’s star, Ben Miller, who plays Detective Inspector Richard Poole. “Everything I’ve done before has been filmed in Salford,” he chuckles.
Death in Paradise deals with life on the fictional island of Saint-Marie, but the show was filmed over a period of five months in Deshaies on the northwest corner of Guadeloupe.
You can see why the TV company chose the location: Guadeloupe is shockingly vivid. Everywhere you look there are bright primary colours – deep blues, greens, yellows, reds – all year round. It’s nature turned up to 11. Chuck in some charming old buildings and it all adds up to the perfect setting for the drama.
Adding to the flavour of the island is the fact that it is French-owned. More than a mere colony, Guadeloupe is officially part of France proper. The currency is the euro, the supermarkets are Carrefour and everyone speaks French. Nonetheless, the ubiquitous palm trees and the twinkling, deep blue sea are thoroughly Caribbean and, after dark, the chorus of tree frogs is a sure sign you’re deep in the tropics.
Given that this is officially part of the European Union, life can be delightfully haphazard. Out on my travels one morning, I see two cows pulling a load down a main street – and it’s not unusual to see old men standing by the side of the road holding dead fish by their tails, offering them to passing motorists through open car windows. You don’t often see that in Paris or London.
That’s nothing, says Miller. “Last year, after a tropical rainstorm, I saw a chicken floating down the street…”