Death in Paradise season 9: Why the sun-soaked murder mystery series is the perfect remedy to January blues
Ahead of its return to BBC One, we chatted to Tobi Bakare, Shyko Amos, Elizabeth Bourgine and Nina Wadia to find out why the new TV series is unmissable viewing.
Since launching in 2011, Death in Paradise has consistently been a ratings smash hit for BBC One - winning over audiences with its combination of murder mystery in a stunning Caribbean setting.
Set on the fictional island of Saint Marie, the TV series follows the adventures – and often misadventures – of a number of British detectives who are transferred from their gritty London jobs to the sunny island.
And the laid-back detective show is back again for season 9, where it introduces new lead cast member Ralf Little into the fold after fan favourite Ardal O’Hanlon announced he was leaving the show.
Speaking to BT.com and other journalists at the launch of the series, cast members Tobi Bakare (JP), Shyko Amos (Ruby), Elizabeth Bourgine (Catherine) and Nina Wadia (Anna) reveal why the new series gives audiences want they want - with a few surprises along the way…
1. The beautiful setting of ‘Saint Marie’ is back
The sun-soaked series is filmed on the French island of Guadeloupe, which transforms itself into the fictional island of Saint-Marie, a British overseas territory, for the show.
And ever since its launch, Death in Paradise has always aired on TV in winter (mainly January) - providing a much-needed tropical escape from the British winter weather.
This sunny setting is one of the reasons audiences keep tuning in year after year - it's just what you need to get through the first few weeks of the year, when everyone’s on a post-Christmas comedown and the weather in the UK is cold and miserable.
The series acts a temporary remedy for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) of sorts.
The show’s Executive Producer Tim Key agrees: “Obviously the location is beautiful, the feeling of warmth for that time of year. Everyone needs a bit of sun!”
Needless to say season 9 follows the same winning weather formula, with the show’s producer Ella Kelly telling us that there’s one upcoming episode in particular that looks like paradise on screen.
She explains: “You do forget how beautiful [the show] is. Episode 6 is on a desert island, it's an island adventure story, and looking at that, it is paradise, it’s incredible. You think ‘that cannot be real’. It just looks so gorgeous.”
As former Death in Paradise star Kris Marshall explained to Radio Times a few years back, the series is "like wrapping a sunny blanket around you in January.”
Here comes the sun!
2. Welcome the new lead detective - and love interest?
Ardal O’Hanlon has played DI Jack Mooney in the crime drama for three sun-soaked years, but he announced he'd be waving goodbye to the character in late 2019.
The Irish comedian and actor will be replaced by Ralf Little as the new lead detective on the series. Ralf will play DI Neville Parker, who is sent to the fictional Saint Marie to investigate a suspicious death.
Speaking about the handing over of the baton, Elizabeth Bourgine, who plays bar owner Catherine Bordey, says: “Ralf brings amazing energy. It was wonderful working with Ardal, but it was different working with Ralf. He’s been fantastic.”
Tobi Bakare (Officer JP Hooper) agrees that Ralf brings a different ‘energy’ to the show. He explains: “Ralf’s very different to Ardal, who was very persuasive as a detective. That was his schtick. They underestimated who he was, and he operated on that kind of level.
“Whereas with Ralf, you get a much more energetic, upfront driving character. You have to adapt to these people, and that’s what I think is thrilling about this series. You get two for one, really!”
Teasing Ardal’s exit storyline, exec producer Tim Key hints that DI Jack leaves the island for love. He alludes: “The way that Ardal leaves the series, I think the viewers will love it. He came in on a particular storyline and it’s that storyline that takes him out. It’s about moving on with his life and what it is that he needs to do.
“The island is the character in our show that has to heal our most damaged character of our lead detective. It’s to do with that, and Nina [Wadia]’s character plays into that.”
Indeed, EastEnders actress Nina Wadia joins the show for series 9, and also hints that her character Anna falls in love with someone. Whether it’s Jack or not has yet to be confirmed.
Nina says: “Anna’s starting her life afresh after a marriage that didn’t really go well, so she’s out literally to find herself and to discover who she really is, and be brave to do that at her age. It’s exciting for her. She goes for a year’s travel not expecting to meet anyone or fall in love.”
3. There’s even more chances for you to play armchair detective
As engrossed as we are in the characters’ storylines by now, the cast of Death in Paradise has almost entirely changed since the show began - and people are still hooked.
One of the biggest appeals of the show is its murder mystery premise, and the fact audiences get to play armchair detective.
Elizabeth Bourgine (Catherine Bordey) says that when people come up to her to praise the show, they say ‘I love it because it’s fun, there’s no blood, and we have to find out who the murderer is’.
Exec producer Tim Key adds that it takes a lot of work for the team to come up with the murder mystery storylines each season - with some of their inspiration coming from classic detective stories, like Agatha Christie, but often it comes from choosing a location for a possible murder.
He says: “We try really hard with those puzzles to walk that line between heightened and plausible. We try and play to the truth of it. We’re not making a pantomime, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It sort of subverts the [murder mystery] genre a bit.
“We’re always trying to find new twists on things. Sometimes we think ‘how could we do our own version of Murder on the Orient Express?’. We did our own murder on the bus last year for example.
“Other times we see a location in Guadeloupe [where the show is filmed] and we think ‘it would be really cool to film there’. There’s a lighthouse that we’ve always wanted to use on screen, we got that and it looks amazing this year.”
So what crimes can we expect to see on the show this series? Well cast and crew were keeping their cards to their chest, and rightly so as we wouldn’t want to give away any spoilers.
But cast member Shyko Amos (who plays Officer Ruby Patterson) alludes to one cycling-based murder. She teases: “There’s a cycling episode murder type situation, like a Tour de Saint Marie. That was really exciting, seeing all the cyclists’ costumes. That was an epic one.”
Death in Paradise returns to BBC One on Thursday, January 9 at 9pm.