Kris Marshall on sunny whodunit Death in Paradise: Not all TV has to be shot down a Danish alleyway

The star of BBC1's Caribbean-set crime drama talks Scandi noir, 98% humidity and missing quintessential English banter

Death in Paradise is a ray of sunshine in our dreary January evenings. It might be a crime drama, following DI Humphrey Goodman as he solves grisly and mysterious murders, but it’s about as far as you can get from the gritty Nordic Noir of shows like The Bridge and The Killing. And that, says its star Kris Marshall, is the reason it remains so popular with fans. 

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“As brilliant as those dark Scandi noir dramas are, not everything has to be shot down a Danish alleyway,” Marshall tells us. “[Death in Paradise] is murder with perfect hair and not too much blood. People like that. It’s murder in the drawing room with a lead pipe, a mixture of Columbo and Scooby Doo.” 

That early January air-date does help, too. “People are broke, there’s about eight hours of daylight a day, they’ve just got through Christmas and everyone’s fat,” laughs Marshall. “It’s a very sunny show, it’s a fun show and you don’t have to think too hard.”

Fans will be glad to hear that this upcoming series is set to be “more fun” and features some “fantastic guest stars” who we bet must love the show as much as fans, for its exotic and eternally sunny Caribbean shooting location…

“I would be lying if I said that we don’t all head off to go for a swim after work in the sea and then have a beer,” admits Marshall. “The guest stars love it and I feel like a sort of travel rep: ‘Welcome, welcome. Welcome to Guadeloupe. The sea is over there, the bar is over there – please enjoy yourself.’

“They are over for about two weeks and they only work about four or five days. But it is quite a different show for us to work on because we’re on all day every day, six days a week. Still brilliant but not quite as much of a holiday.

“90% of the time it is the best job in the world, absolutely fantastic. The other 10%, it’s the hardest job in the world because it’s just incredibly hot. If you’ve got 30 people standing in a very small room with about 10 lights in 40 degree heat and 98% humidity, there’s no air and it starts to drive you a bit mad!” 

Plus it does mean a long time away from home. Marshall’s family come out to Guadeloupe, which poses as the fictional Saint Marie in the series, during filming – “I’m not sure I could do the show if my son and my wife weren’t with me” – but that doesn’t stop him missing home comforts.

“About four months in your start to miss the cold. You miss not sweating. I miss Guiness, log fires, cosy pubs. I miss English banter as well, you know the sort, very quintessentially English.” 

His character DI Humphrey Goodman is rather quintessentially English himself, with his linen suits and bumbling ways, but according to Marshall he couldn’t be more different from the part he plays.  

“Complete polar opposite. I don’t have any linen in my wardrobe whatsoever, and the only flowery shirt I have is the one that Ben Miller bought me when I took over the show last year.” 

In fact, unlike his character, Marshall isn’t even that keen on mysteries or puzzle solving… 

“I’m actually really bad at puzzles,” he admits. “I come to work and people go, ‘Did you guess the murderer? Yeah, you guessed the murderer didn’t you?’ and I am like, ‘I didn’t guess the murderer, I never guess the murderer’ – I just don’t!

“I’m really bad at puzzles, I don’t have that sort of expansive mind like Humphrey does, I’m more puzzled than able to undo puzzles. He does all the puzzles, I’m more of the puzzled variety.” 

Though Death in Paradise has been a January staple for the last four years, this is only the second series with Marshall at the helm. And when he first took over from Ben Miller’s DI Richard Poole some ardent fans had their reservations. 

“I had a few people come up to me in the street, at Waitrose and stuff after it first came out, especially the older generation who come up and they go, ‘I wasn’t sure, I thought I wasn’t going to like this but I really love it’ and that’s great – I love it. The older generation especially, they just don’t really hold back, they’re like ‘I thought you were going to be rubbish but actually I really love it.’

“You’re not gonna please all the people all the time but I couldn’t have expected it to go much better really.”

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