COVER Behind the scenes of Death in Paradise
As a new series of the BBC’s Death in Paradise is due to begin, we discover how filming on the heavenly location of Guadeloupe is not without its hazards…
As Death in Paradise returns to our screens this New Year, its cast and crew are well aware that they are some of the luckiest luvvies and behind-the-camera bods around. A six-month shoot on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe – which doubles for the fictional island of Saint Marie – filming one of the most popular shows on British TV with family and friends regularly flying in for visits, what’s not to love?
“Not much,” admits actor Ardal O’Hanlon (53) who plays DI Jack Mooney. “But it was during the filming of the series that’s now going out that I experienced my most frightening moment. In fact, I thought my time was up.” It was the notoriously unpredictable weather that indirectly caused Ardal’s near-death experience.
“We had a couple of days off so a few of us chartered a small boat and boatman to take us to the island of Montserrat, about 100 miles away, where we’d planned to stop the night,” he explains. “The journey there was fine, but on the trip back the trouble started. The weather changed suddenly. Clouds closed in, the wind picked up and the waves were as high as a ceiling.
“We couldn’t even see Guadeloupe, let alone get back. It was the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m not a good sailor and I really thought this was it. Our very experienced boatman kept turning this way and that, and eventually we were sailing parallel with the island. We sailed south and finally made it back to Guadeloupe – it had taken five hours, rather than the two-and-a-half it should have.”
In September 2017, filming series seven of Death in Paradise had to be suspended because of Hurricane Irma, shortly followed by Hurricane Maria. The government in Guadeloupe issued a red alert due to dangerously high winds and rain, as hurricanes battered the Caribbean. The island escaped most of the damage, but it was quite an
experience for the stars of the series.
“It was scary,” actor Tobi Bakare, who plays officer JP Hooper, says. “It was a scenario that I’ve never been involved in before, so we had to do what we could to cope. I’m a man of faith, so I prayed. I just asked for God to guide me and also prayed for the neighbouring islands. It affected Guadeloupe, but what it did to the nearby islands was catastrophic.”
As this was Ardal’s first full series of filming, it must have been something of a baptism of fire.
“We were aware of the devastation that the extreme weather could cause and the devastation it caused elsewhere,” he
‘Every morning I’d be lathering up my pale Irish skin in Factor 50 so I’d be well protected’
adds. “It was worrying because we knew we had a big hurricane coming – and then another.”
The intense heat and humidity were other challenges to face on Guadeloupe, as Kris Marshall (45), who played DI Humphrey Goodman from 2014-17, has attested.
Speaking at the time he said: “It’s not all 28 degrees and on-shore breezes. We film from April to October, which is hurricane season. It’s sometimes 40°C of searing heat with 85 per cent humidity.”
Kris is said to have had the backs of his shirts cut out in an attempt to keep cool and although Ardal hasn’t resorted to such extreme measures, he, too, has felt the extreme heat.
“Until you’re actually there and you’ve experienced it yourself, you really don’t know what it’s like,” he says. “Every morning I’d be lathering up my pale Irish skin in Factor 50, so I’d be well protected. Nothing really prepares you for the heat, though.”
The soaring temperatures have also taken actress Shyko Amos, who plays new police officer Ruby Patterson by surprise.
“Before I got the job, I’d read about the actors in Death in Paradise going on about the heat and I’d think, ‘Oh purrlease – you poor things!’,” she laughs. “I mean, I love a bit of sunshine and Vitamin D. But when I started filming, I realised what they’d been going on about. The heat is the worst thing because we’re outside for 11 hours at a time. We’re not on a set and there is no air-conditioning, so it’s relentlessly hot.”
The local wildlife, aka creepy crawlies, is also challenging.
“Last year I was terrorised by a creature called a Scolopendra,” reveals Ardal. “It’s a giant centipede, about six inches long, that moves very fast and bites. Fortunately, I wasn’t bitten but some of the crew were and they describe the pain as being about 50 times worse than a wasp sting. Scolopendra are a delicacy for hens, so maybe I was protected by some stray ones I befriended. They were like my personal bodyguard.”
Mosquitos – and therefore mosquito-borne diseases – are another problem. In 2016 dengue fever swept through the crew.
All things considered, however, Death in Paradise is something of a dream job – despite the potential dangers. Indeed, some cast members seem to thrive on it.
One particular highlight for French actress Elizabeth Bourgine (61), who plays restaurateur-turned-mayor Catherine Bordey, was taking time out to climb Guadeloupe’s La Grande Soufriere volcano.
“It was just the greatest experience,” she says. “It was absolutely magical. It started with magnificent landscapes and then came the wind and, would you believe, the cold. When we were at the top we found ourselves in a sort of fog. All sorts of different climates in just one day.”
And it sounds like there was some respite from the heat too!
■ The new series of Death in Paradise starts on January 10, BBC1, 9pm
The Death In Paradise cast with new police officer Ruby Patterson (Shyko Amos) second from left
Tobi Bakare (who plays officer JP Hooper) Elizabeth Bourgine (mayor Catherine Bordey) and below Ardal O’Hanlon (DI Jack Mooney)