Surviving Death in Paradise: Ben Miller’s advice for Kris Marshall

As Miller prepares to depart the BBC1 whodunit, he shares his top tips for surviving the tropics with his replacement




Ben Miller I made a rule with myself that I would get in the sea every day. Even if it’s just for half an hour. We have to start filming at six in the morning to make the most of the natural light, and finish just before six when the sun goes out like a light. But we’ve got these magic few moments as the sun goes down and the cameras are turned off when everybody gets in the sea. Those chats with the cast and crew while we’re bobbing around are what I will miss the most. That is where all our production meetings really happened. It beats a meeting room in an airless office!

Kris Marshall Good thing I can tread water!

BM The locals here will also swear that it has all kinds of healing properties. Apparently it will sort out anything that’s wrong with you.

KM Has it cleared up all your ailments?

BM It actually gave me a bit of psoriasis but it soon helped clear it up! I do have one word of warning, though. Be careful where you swim. I had a terrible experience at the beach barbecue the crew held for me when I arrived. There was a sign – in French – that said on no account go into the water on this beach. I remember thinking, “What absolute rubbish, it’s clearly for tourists.” I wandered out there casually to cool my feet and all of a sudden it was like a man under the sand grabbed my ankles and threw me over. I was rolled into the waves and thrashed to within an inch of my life, while frantically waving for help. Nobody noticed. I lost everything on me – my glasses, my wallet… every scrap of dignity I had. I finally found my feet and limped back to my room to get changed. When I returned to the barbecue the producer asked, “What on earth kept you?” I never admitted how stupid I’d been.


BM I had no idea what I was letting myself in for in terms of the heat out here. When I came out for the first series I brought completely the wrong clothes and couldn’t wear anything without sweating profusely. Although at that point there would have nothing I would have been comfortable in.

KM A thong, perhaps? I boarded a plane a couple of weeks ago on a cold Wednesday morning at London’s City Airport, chugging down hot chocolate in the lounge trying to keep warm. I got out at this end and instantly felt my boots filling up with sweat. I have been in hot countries before but have never experienced anything like that. I thought it was some sort of freak occurrence but it’s like that every day.

BM You do get used to the heat. During the filming of the second series I had no trouble whatsoever; I packed completely differently. I bought everything Marks & Spencer had in white linen. I had a white linen shirt, white linen trousers, a white linen hat… I looked like an extra from a Phil Collins video. And now, look, I’m sitting in jeans. I’ve even got socks on!

KM My character wears a lot of white linen. There are rotating neutron stars in the galaxy that are less conspicuous than I am in white linen. But at least I’m not wearing a suit, like you did. I’m not sure I could have coped with that.

BM It was awful and I did collapse from the heat in the first series but my character was also suffering, so at least there was no acting involved there! My top tip is to get all full-length shots done before lunchtime, when it’s cooler. Then you can spend the rest of the day with a suit on top and shorts and flip-flops out of shot underneath. In any given shot, if there’s an item of my clothing you can’t see, I’m not wearing it – will that put people off watching, do you think?

KM Well, I pretty much do the same, but I just wear a thong – that will definitely put people off, won’t it?!  

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BM I fear I am a completely stereotypical Brit abroad – every time I go away my suitcase is packed with Typhoo tea and English mustard.

KM I do miss Colman’s mustard, but my luxury item is hair gel – that immediately flags up the difference between us! I haven’t had a cup of tea since I got here. I was never a drinker of coffee, but now I drink about seven cups a day. And I love a cup of PG Tips. But wherever I go, what I really miss about England is that I can’t take with me is milk. Normal, fresh milk. It’s all long-life milk abroad. I miss milk. I sound like an advert!

BM Oh, I meant PG Tips! I will get in a lot of trouble for that!

KM Of course – you’re the PG Tips monkey, aren’t you! 


BM I learnt French, the official language used in Guadeloupe, on the hoof from the crew. It’s more effective than in a classroom. I quickly discovered that the French I did at school is great if you want to write a postcard to your mum, but not great if you want to have a conversation with anyone over the age of three. I have also picked up a bit of Creole.

Both “Pa gen pwoblem.”

KM It’s a bit like mañana in Spanish – life is good, don’t worry about it. I did French at A-level. Unfortunately I failed. But I lived in France for a while so my French is pretty good. I love picking up Creole, though.

BM There is so much to learn about this island. I spent the first year learning French, learning about how French people live, because despite being in the middle of the Caribbean, the way of life is very French. The second year I learnt all about the Creole way of life. It is so diverse and the way the two cultures have blended together is beautiful.

KM It’s true, we think we’re a multicultural country in England, which we are, but over here it’s so much more assimilated. I just hope we come back for another series and I can enrol my little boy in a French crèche here and watch him eat camembert!

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BM I went snorkelling on one of the reefs over on Petit Havre, off the main island, and it was stunning, like a lagoon… until I saw a five-foot reef shark. I didn’t react in a particularly macho way. Reef sharks probably think that one of our defence mechanisms when under attack is to defecate in the water.

KM I’m most daunted about coming face to face with a scolopendra, a type of centipede, which is apparently the only animal on land that can really do you a bit of damage.

BM Because there are no snakes.

KM Thank god! I hate snakes. I was watching an episode where someone said, “Watch out for the snakes.” In Saint-Marie there are snakes everywhere. But when I asked the locals they said Guadeloupe has no snakes because they introduced the mongoose to get rid of them.

BM I know mosquitoes don’t sound scary, but I got covered in bites until I discovered T-Rex. It’s the only insect repellent that works. I’ve had it on for five hours and look at me. Bite free.

KM They are voracious. They bite you through your clothes. I’ve never been anywhere else – even in the Congo – where they do that. The insects and bugs here are terrifying. I’m a little reluctant about my boy crawling around, there are cockroaches the size of an Airbus A380. 


BM It’s pretty obvious that Kris is the one who needs to give me tips on how to live in the Caribbean! But I have one final thing to pass on – the local handshake. You have to say, “Check!”, put your fist out, and bump fists. As a white man growing up on the mean streets of Cheshire I was not particularly relaxed about this form of communication, but I’m totally into it now. I mean, Kris probably fist bumps people in London…

KM I don’t fist bump! And no one has fist bumped me so far. 

BM You have to initiate it. I remember thinking that the guy who taught it to me was winding me up, like it was a horrific local joke and I’d be forced into the back of a Jeep and kidnapped for being a naive tourist once I’d done it, but I promise it is real!

KM I actually got kidnapped while making a film [2011’s Oka!] in the Congo jungle, where army warlords are ten-a-penny. I mean, I use the word kidnapped very loosely. Basically, the army used to turn up at our unit base and take the producer away whenever they were bored and we would have to pay to get him back. And then one day, when they found out I was the main actor on the job, they took me instead. So, I say kidnapped, but it involved me being led into the back of a jeep, driven away to some army/police office by drunk guys with machine guns standing around for about three hours, before they bought me back for about US$200.

BM How much did the producer go for?

KM US$250!

BM I’d probably be worth about €40!

Death in Paradise starts tonight at 9:00pm on BBC1

Visit the Caribbean with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details