Danny John-Jules on his acting success and the popularity of Death in Paradise: “It can only be karma”

"If you’re meant to be in a hit show, it will be a hit; if you’re not, it will go down the tube," says the star, who plays long-running character Officer Dwayne Myers

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Like his on screen Death in Paradise character Officer Dwayne Myers, actor Danny John-Jules has a pretty laid back attitude when it comes to, well, pretty much everything. 

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“I think things are plotted for you, which takes a lot of stress and worry out of life,” he tells us, adding: “I believe the way that things have always happened in my career proves it.” 

He never saw acting as a career, he says, but that hasn’t stopped the 55-year-old making his living in the world of showbiz for the last three decades. 

“I believe that if I’d planned it, my career wouldn’t have happened in a million years. It can only be karma. I tend to just relax and focus on the guy that I have to play.”

He’s got a fairly philosophical approach to ratings and critical success – “If you’re meant to be in a hit show, it will be a hit; if you’re not, it will go down the tube” – but John-Jules had a feeling about Death in Paradise from the start: “You do get that feeling that something is different. There were so many coincidences happening. Everything seemed to be pointing towards me getting that character.”

“When I was reading the script and seeing that he was a character called Dwayne and I’d played a character called Duane in Red Dwarf. It then says ‘Dwayne turns up on a Harley Davidson’ and I had come to the audition on a Harley Davidson. When I got to the gig and picked up the script, I thought, ‘My God, this is mental.'”

The job came after a couple of failed auditions too. One was for Shrek: the Musical with Nigel Lindsay. “All of a sudden, I’m in the Caribbean and Nigel Lindsay comes to work with me. Can you see the madness of it all? If I’d have got that job I’d have worked with him for a year in the West End, but karma was going to have it that I’d work with him anyway.”

And the other was for The Wizard of Oz. “It only lasted for three months and would have been the shortest West End thing I’d done,” he says. “Was it a blessing that I didn’t get it? Of course it was.” 

It’s safe to say John-Jules is glad he ended up where he did: on the idyllic Caribbean island of Guadeloupe for six months of the year.

He speaks the local language – “My parents are from Dominica, so I don’t have a cultural hurdle to jump over. My Dad still lives on the island next door. For the last five years, I’ve been able to get a two-hour ferry and be sitting in front of him” – but makes efforts not to get too stuck into its laid-back culture. 

“Filming can be quite tough and gruelling. People have had to go home through exhaustion or heat stroke so I try and keep myself together,” he tells us. He runs on the islands beaches a lot, keeps fit and tries to avoid the pull of the bars. 

“It’s easy to just sit on the sofa after a few rums,” he laughs. “Ti’ Punch – rum, brown sugar and lime crushed in the glass – that’s the one that everybody wants to taste. There have been a few casualties because of that. You go in a bit jet-lagged, it’s really hot and after a couple of those you could end up being carried back to your room!” 

As far as the future of Death in Paradise is concerned, John-Jules is predictably relaxed. He still loves playing one of the show’s longest-running characters, but, hey, who knows what’s around the corner? 

“It’s crazy that what you think you want to do in your own mind is one thing, but if the phone rings and somebody says they want you to do something, it could change,” he grins. “I think that’s all part of the excitement of the industry: nobody’s career is guaranteed.”

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Death in Paradise returns on Thursday 7th January at 9:00pm on BBC1