“You look like you could use some help, sir,” says a familiar voice. Commissioner Selwyn Patterson (Don Warrington) glances up from his temporary desk at the police station – and standing there grinning is DS Florence Cassell (Joséphine Jobert). “I am very grateful you answered my SOS, DS Cassell,” says the Commissioner, evidently relieved.
And with that, Florence is back.
“Well, I was very excited to meet her again,” Jobert tells press, ahead of her Death in Paradise comeback. “Because first of all I love her! I think she could be a good friend in real life, and I was really interested in – because she’s been through a lot, I mean she’s lost her fiancé. And I loved playing those scenes even though they were very, very sad, because we could see another face of her.
“And I was very interested in how she would come back, how is she going to feel, how is she going to do, is she going to be OK. I was a bit worried about her, honestly, I was like: ‘Oh my God! I hope she’s going to be fine! But she’s a strong woman. When she gets a call from the Commissioner asking her to come back I believe she didn’t hesitate one second.”
Florence left the show during season eight. Her exit storyline played out across a dramatic double bill which saw her fiancé Patrice (Leemore Marrett Jr) murdered just before their wedding day; Florence herself almost died of a gunshot wound. In the aftermath, she told DI Jack Mooney (Ardal O’Hanlon) that she was quitting her job and leaving Saint Marie to escape the island’s painful memories.
At the time, the actress tweeted that she was leaving the show due to “personal and professional reasons – nothing dramatic I swear!” and added: “Everything is fine it’s just that I’ve been working on Death in Paradise for five years… I loved every minute of it.”
But now Jobert has returned, bringing Florence back to Saint Marie and to her job as Detective Sergeant. Honoré Police is severely understaffed after the departure of both Officer Ruby Patterson (Shyko Amos) and DS Madeleine Dumas (Aude Legastelois) – which will be explained in the new series – and Florence will now team up with newcomer DI Neville Parker (Ralf Little) and her old colleague DS JP Hooper (Tobi Bakare).
Jobert says: “To see the [police] crew again, to see her island, which reminds her of a lot of difficult moments but also lots of wonderful moments she spent with the team… I was very excited about this and really proud of her.
“And the thing is, I think she’s still struggling, because when you lose someone that you love so much, I mean – do you ever recover? I don’t think so.
“But the fact that she meets Neville, who is very special to her in his way – I think she wants to take care of him, because she sees the potential, and I think maybe it’s a way for her to think of something else and to get closer to somebody else and I think their relationship will help her to heal and to move on.”
She adds: “It’s a bit too soon for her, I think, to have a new relationship. But you never know.”
That raises the question of whether this new partnership between Florence and Neville will – or won’t – develop into something romantic.
Ralf Little says: “He’s helped out by his job and by his sense of purpose, and he’s helped out in no small measure by Florence Cassell, who becomes a great friend and confidante and ally and he thinks very highly of.”
Speaking on a video call from Guadeloupe with two weeks left of filming to go, he adds: “Obviously he is absolutely enchanted by this very beautiful, very charming charismatic warm generous character and he finds himself very much drawn to her.
“Where that will go in the series and in any future series is anybody’s guess but yes he is certainly very taken with her… Those two have a real connection in the series. And hopefully we’ll get to see where that goes. He hasn’t actually managed to do anything about it yet. But we’ll see.”
Death in Paradise returns on Thursday 7th January 2021 at 9pm on BBC One. While you’re waiting, check out what else is on with our TV Guide.