There’s nothing better on a cold, miserable January evening than being whisked away to a Caribbean paradise to be treated to a night of sun, sea and unsolved murders.
Well, perhaps not the last one. But the stunning vistas, heart-warming characters and gripping storylines have all come together to create a magic formula for Death in Paradise.
The BBC One drama starts its fifth series tonight, and it looks set to be another intriguing, funny and thrilling eight episodes in Saint-Marie.
At the centre of it all is Kris Marshall. The 42-year-old actor, who plays lead character DI Humphrey Goodman, explains that the show has “grown and grown” – thanks in part to its similarity to cop shows of the 1970s and 80s.
“There was Columbo and The Rockford Files, a bit of Murder She Wrote; Poirot and Marple to a certain degree. But they sort of died out a little bit,” he tells BT TV in an exclusive interview.
“And then you move into Borgen and everything being a bit dark, Danish and bloody with nice jumpers. And then Death in Paradise popped up and there was nothing like it.”
There certainly wasn’t. Death in Paradise was an instant hit when it began in 2011 with Ben Miller starring as uptight officer DI Richard Poole who is relocated from London to a remote Caribbean island to take over the job of police chief of Saint-Marie.
Over three series, the show became one of the diamonds in the BBC’s bank of returning dramas. But fans were left worried when it was announced that Ben would be leaving the show in its third series.
And no one, it seems, was more worried than Kris Marshall who took over the lead role from Ben in 2014.
“I kind of revelled in the expectation on me when I got the job – I wouldn’t have taken it otherwise!” he laughs. “But at the start I was like, ‘I am leaving the country if this goes badly’. So there was quite a bit of pressure, but I’ve tried not to feel it.
“I just hope that everyone else agrees with me. Well, there are always some people… You can’t please everybody. But you know, as long as you please most people I think that’s OK!
He freely admits that he was “relieved” when the show continued to go from strength to strength.
“I just didn’t want to screw it up,” he tells us. “I never wanted to take a 7.5 million viewer show and turn it into a 4 million viewer show. That wouldn’t look very good on me and that wouldn’t have done my reputation much good.
“In series three and four there was a lot of change. I came in, and in series four Sara [Martins, who played Camille Bordey] and Gary [Carr, who played Sergeant Fidel Best] left.
“But then the fourth series went up again by half a million or something to an average of about 8.6 million – which is brilliant for a midweek show! And we got moved from Tuesday to Thursday as well. I worried it was going to kill us. But it didn’t – we grew again!”
And, as Kris explains, this series looks set to be the best yet.
“I think this series we find Humphrey very relaxed, very at home, very Caribbean. It gives us a lot more time to focus on the crimes and the fun and the show. Not only is there a wedding this year, but the murders we’ve got are great!” he smiles.
“There’s a guy who lands on the island, gets off the plane, doesn’t speak to anyone, goes straight to his hotel room and is murdered during the night. So who’s killed him? And we’ve got a guy who dies of natural causes, is cremated, and then just after his cremation he sends a text to someone saying ‘I was murdered’. That’s another brilliant one.”
As well as having lots of work on his plate, the former My Family actor also tells us that this year, Humphrey is making room in his life for a special someone.
“In series four, obviously Humphrey was in love with Camille and then she left. So I think on the show we all felt it would have been incredibly disingenuous to approach anything involving romance or anything like that,” he tells us. “But now he’s on the lookout for a potential mate!”
So could it be that love blossoms between Humphrey and his rather stunning colleague, Florence (Josephine Jobert)?
“Errm… I would say not,” offers Kris. “I don’t think they’re like that together – I think they’re just mates. I think that it would be a little disingenuous and a little cheating to the show.
“We all feel that if that was just trotted out again, I know I’d have a problem with it, and probably my bosses and the writers would too!”
It seems as though as well as a new love in his life, we could be having a new Humphrey on our hands this year, too.
“I like to change Humphrey slightly every series as well, otherwise it makes it boring for me and I think it makes it boring for the audience, so we’ve really tried to move it on a bit,” he says.
“And I think the show grows a lot actually," he continues. "This series starts off in very classic vein, so people go, ‘OK, this is the show. This is what we’re used to, this is what we like’. And then it starts to change a little bit.
“It’s still the same show – of course it is. Don’t be worried everyone! We’re not going to go to space. But within the genre we try and move things around. There have been 40 episodes now and that’s a lot of episodes to keep doing the same spiel. But that’s what people like so you don’t want to mess with that, but you also want to move it on a little bit.”
Death in Paradise airs at 9pm on BBC One on Thursday, January 7.
Photo credit: BBC