It’s called Death in Paradise for a reason: Saint Marie is a heavenly island of sun, sea, sand and sunsets. In fact it looks so gorgeous (and so hot!) that it’s hard to see how anyone works up enough anger (or energy!) to actually murder someone. Surely they’d rather just go and chill out on the beach?
But Saint Marie doesn’t exactly exist in real life – the show is shot in Guadeloupe. Here’s everything you need to know about filming locations, from the “shack” to the police station to the town of Honoré.
Where is Death in Paradise set?
Death in Paradise is set on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie, in the town of Honoré. This imaginary “pretty island” is supposed to be about a tenth of the size of neighbouring Guadeloupe.
Saint Marie may be a British Overseas territory, but the island’s history and location means around 30% of its inhabitants are French: it only came under British control in the seventies. The main religions on the island are apparently Catholicism and Voodoo which means there are some exciting local festivals every year.
The BBC1 drama is filmed in Guadeloupe, a butterfly-shaped collection of islands in the Caribbean. It is an overseas region of France, which explains all the French-speaking locals who appear as extras on the show. Bien Sur!
In Death in Paradise we spend most of our time in the town of Honoré where DI Jack Mooney (Ardal O’Hanlon) heads up the police force. Much of the filming takes place in the commune of Deshaies, which doubles for the fictional Honoré. Deshaies is located on the northwest tip of Basse-Terre Island (the other “wing” of the butterfly is Grande-Terre Island).
Honoré’s “farmer’s market” can be constructed for filming when required, and local sites are often used for key scenes – for example, Death in Paradise’s first Detective Richard Poole (Ben Miller) was killed in the beautiful botanical gardens.
Nearby resort Langley Fort Royal Hotel is used as a base during filming. For almost six months each year it is home to Death in Paradise’s crew and guest stars and actors, although some of the core cast prefer to live in local villas with their families.
Unsurprisingly, the hotel has made plenty of guest appearances, too: murder victims have tumbled from convenient balconies, and the beach and the bar have appeared in many scenes throughout the years.
DI Jack Mooney has now inherited DI Humphrey Goodman’s beach-front shack – complete with a hungry lizard named Harry. This rickety structure is assembled on Anse La Perle (or La Perle Beach), one of the most beautiful spots in Guadeloupe with miles of unspoiled sand and palm trees.
Between shoots, the shack is taken down so it’s not washed away when the tide comes in during the winter months.
Where is Honoré police station?
The production company takes over a church hall in Deshaies to use as the police station, with the priest’s office becoming the “incident room”.
The detective and his team like to grab a drink after work at Catherine’s Bar, where the owner is always on hand with unusual cocktails and life advice. These scenes are filmed on a wooden deck on the town beach at Deshaies.
What is it like to film Death in Paradise in Guadeloupe?
“Until you’re actually there and you’ve experienced it yourself, you really don’t know,” O’Hanlon says. The heat and humidity can be overpowering, especially in the middle of the day: “Nothing really prepares you for that.”
“Sometimes people think you’re on holiday because you’re filming in Guadeloupe,” says Tobi Bakare, who plays cheeky Officer JP Hooper. “But filming on a beach is not that easy – just so people know!
“When you’re in swimsuits and having a cocktail it’s just perfect being on the beach, but when you’re filming it’s very hard, it’s very long, it’s five months away from family and friends. But the thing is we have so many beautiful beaches and the place is amazing and the crew is like a small family, you get to see year after year. So it’s long, it’s difficult, but it’s very enjoyable.”
Not that it’s all hard graft: there’s still time for a dip in the pool or some time on the beach. Bakare assures us: “In Guadeloupe there’s so much to do, there’s a waterfalls and volcanoes and all sorts of things there that you can explore. And then on top of that there’s a hotel that has a bar! With alcohol!
“The people in the country are fantastic as well, they also employ a lot of Guadeloupeans, local people, so the way they will have fun or their past-time will be fishing. So you find yourself fishing in the Caribbean with a local who happens to be on the same crew as you and you think, God this is fantastic…'”
And while Kris Marshall eventually quit the show because he was spending too much time away from his young family, O’Hanlon says it’s worth it. The actor has three teenage children (Emily, Rebecca and Red) with his wife, Melanie.
Describing Death in Paradise as a “dream job”, he explains: “I think being separated from family for long periods is always a drawback. But I mean that can happen here [in the UK], it can happen anyway. No good bookshops! But no I mean not really, no the compensations far outweigh the drawbacks.
Guadeloupe escaped most of the damage, but it was quite an experience for the stars of Death in Paradise.
“It was scary, it’s a scenario that I’ve never been involved in before so kind of just have to do what you can to cope,” Bakare says. “Me, I’m a man of faith so I prayed, I just asked for God to guide me and also prayed for the neighbouring islands as well man because they were really hit by it and it affected Guadeloupe, yes, but what it done to the neighbouring islands, it’s catastrophic.
“We were well looked after, our houses were assessed to see if they were stable, they kept people close together, the hotels were fantastic, if there was places that they felt was even a tiny bit unsafe they would move people. The production kept people up to date, we had this WhatsApp group that was like a mini radio station. All night long.”
Ardal adds: “It was a little bit daunting, insofar as we knew there was a big hurricane coming. And we obviously had two of them, we had Hurricane Maria as well. So yeah it was kind of worrying.
“We were very aware of the devastation that they could cause and the devastation that they did cause in other places.”
But it’s all part of the job: “You want to make this show in a Caribbean island, this is one of the things you have to contend with, you know what I mean?”
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