"Death in Paradise" fans rejoice! Season 7 of the crime drama premieres on KCET on Monday, March 5 at 8:00 p.m. The season opener finds DI Mooney (Ardal O'Hanlon) and his investigative team once again on the island paradise of Sainte-Marie. This time the team encounters a case that has left the team puzzled when the fiancée of a hotel billionaire is found dead the day before her lavish wedding.
Actor Ardal O'Hanlon sat down to talk about the upcoming season, Harry the lizard, and why audiences love "Death in Paradise."
"Death in Paradise" is back for a seventh series! What can we expect this time round?
Ardal O'Hanlon: We’ve got some typically ingenious Death in Paradise puzzles. We have an international poker tournament where one of the players dies at the poker table in very mysterious circumstances. We’ve got a thriller author who is killed whilst out for his morning swim. We’ve got a cold case, a reggae band comes to town as they’ve reformed after many years. They were popular on the island back in the day and as soon as they get off stage, the lead singer is shot dead in the backstage area. Perhaps by his own hand perhaps by someone else and it soon comes to light that the victim’s wife was killed about 30 years previously and that was the one case that the Commissioner, Selwyn Patterson, never managed to solve when he was a detective. That’s obviously really sensitive because this is the one case that his boss couldn’t solve so he has to tread very carefully. As well as having the clever plots, this series explores the relationships between the team.
Tell us where we left DI Jack Mooney at the end of the last series and where we find him at the beginning of series 7.
AO: At the end of the last series, Jack had arrived effectively on holiday to spend a few weeks decompressing after they cracked the big case in London. To his surprise he’s asked to stay on and help out with a few cases but to him the arrangement is sort of up in the air. It’s a kind of loose arrangement he has made with the islands authorities. But in this series, Jack’s firmly established as the lead detective in Honore Police team. He’s been on the island for a while and he’s acclimatised but he’s hit with the bombshell that his daughter, Siobhan, is leaving. She’s going back to the UK to attend university.
How will Jack cope on his own now that his daughter, Siobhan, is leaving to go back to the UK for University?
AO: Jack is on his own in a way that he’s never been before in his life. His wife has recently died and now his daughter is leaving him on the other side of the world, alone. He kind of has to grow up which is an odd thing for a middle aged man to do but I think he has to grow up emotionally. Jack’s always been cared for and looked after. This is the first time in his life that he actually has to look after himself. He depends quite a lot on his team and as a result get’s to know them quite well.
How has Jack’s relationship with the Honore police team developed?
AO: Jack develops a fairly warm relationship with Florence; it’s not a romantic one but a platonic kind of friendship. Jack’s relationship with Dwayne is quite interesting. In episode 2, Florence is unable to work due to a leg injury, so Dwayne has to step into the pocket. Dwayne’s idea of being a detective is slightly different from Jack’s or to anybody else’s in the world. He sees himself as a cop out of Miami vice which is quite amusing but it tests their relationship quite a lot. Jack loses his patience a bit so we get to see that side of him. At one point Dwayne moves in with Jack because he’s having issues with his house. They’re the most mixed matched a couple you could possibly get!
What is Jack’s relationship with the commissioner like?
AO: I really love the dynamic between Jack and the Commissioner. Jack has always had to tip toe around the Commissioner but in at least two episodes, Selwyn gets involves in the cases a bit more than he normally does. He actually rolls up his sleeves and gets involved. Jack is kind of on the back foot and he’s under more pressure than usual. I think the power struggle in their relationship is quite interesting.
In one episode, a murder is committed at an International Poker Match. How does Jack solve a case, when the suspects are all professional bluffers?
AO: Jack, who claims he’s never played poker in his life and he doesn’t know the first thing about it, which may or may not be true, has to get into the mind of a poker player. That’s always his style. He tries to put himself in the suspects’ shoes so has to learn the rudimental poker rules. Then that way he can figure out whose bluffing and who isn’t.
Harry the lizard has become a fan favourite. How does Jack find living with him?
Harry the lizard is a huge part of his life so when he looks a little bit peaky, Jack is devastated!
AO: In the last series he slightly recoiled from Harry the lizard at first. He doesn’t likes bugs or insects too much but now Harry is sort of his own friend, his confidant. At one point, Harry gets sick and he has to take him to the vet so he really misses the company. You can imagine what it’s like, living in a shack on your own with nothing but the sound of the sea and the rustling of the palm trees, you could go crazy with the isolation. All the other members of the team have their lives on the island. They have family, girlfriends, wives, they’ve got another life. Jack doesn’t have anyone or anything else but his work. Harry the lizard is a huge part of his life so when he looks a little bit peaky, Jack is devastated!
The scripts for each episode of "Death in Paradise" are full of twists and turns. Do you ever guess correctly who the murderer is without peaking at the end? Who is the best at working out who did it?
AO: I’m a little bit rubbish at that; I’ll be honest with you. The scripts are so ingenious and they’re designed to dumbfound you so I’ve never quite guessed correctly. Just when I think I know who it is, the rug is always pulled out from under my feet at the last minute! The ‘who done it’ element is a big part of the show. It’s definitely one of the attractions of the show. People do like to guess and I know that when we’re watching it as a family everyone has their prime suspect. I’d like to tell you that I know who the murderer is from page one but it’s not true.
What was it like returning to Guadeloupe for filming? Do you ever get bored of the sunshine?
AO: I’ve really grown to love the island; I’ve got to know it quite well. I absolutely treasure the weekend because that’s when you can get out and explore. You can enjoy the sun and the sea and the rainforest. I’m really drawn to the rainforest there, the damp clammy rainforest that I go to week after week and stumble across beautiful waterfalls. They have natural pools at the end of them where you can cool down. It really is a magical place in so many ways. You never get bored of it! It’s a long time to be away but it’s an experience that I’ll always treasure.
What were the biggest challenges you all faced during the shoot?
AO: Mosquitoes. They really love me. They love me more than anything in the world! There’s nothing you can do, I’ve tried everything — bite cream, lotion but after a while you stop putting it on. It’s a minor distraction in the big scheme of things. You get used to everything, it’s amazing! I amaze myself as to how I acclimatise to everything. I never thought I’d be able to survive the heat, humidity or the insects but its all fine. I miss scratching now...
What do you get up to in your spare time when you’re not filming? Does everyone hang out together?
AO: It’s very sociable and there’s a big bunch of people, a mixture of British, French and local Guadeloupian so it’s a great mix of people. You never get bored and you get to know people really well. On a lot of jobs, you only get to know them superficially but because you’re together day after day, you build quite a close relationship. We tend to go on adventures together to other islands or sometimes we just rent a boat and muck about. One of the big attractions is swimming with turtles. Seeing them up close is an amazing experience. We also go for hikes in the rainforest. We recruit a bunch of people and it’s all very casual and informal. Anyone who wants to tag along tags along. You find out what people are doing at the weekend, where they’re visiting and you just go along. It’s really nice. When the guest cast come over we always like to show them a good time. Each time you show them a really special secret waterfall, you enjoy it just as much as the first time you saw it.
What are you most looking forward to the audience seeing this series?
AO: We’ve got eight fantastic episodes, they are exceptionally strong this year. I hope people appreciate the humor in the show this series as that’s developed a little bit. Humor is an important part of "Death in Paradise," and we do it in a way that never compromises the integrity of the show or the credibility of the plot. In terms of Jack’s character, he shows a kind of steely side to himself and a passionate side. He does get passionately involved in the crime. Jack responds to each case and to the people involved in each case, he’s sort of a people person in that way. There’s a certain moral outrage there that comes through particularly in the denouements, in the big closing scenes. He gets a little bit worked up so hopefully that will be fun for people to see. That’s something I enjoyed doing.
Last series pulled in over 9 million viewers. What is it about "Death in Paradise" that audiences love?
AO: It’s a number of things. "Death in Paradise" starts in January when the audience are at their lowest ebb. It’s after Christmas, they’ve no money left and they’ve broken all they’re resolutions. They’re not looking after themselves so then "Death in Paradise" comes on and there’s beautiful scenery and the sun is shining. I think it cheers people up, to be honest with you. It’s very demanding in some ways as the puzzles are quite clever and ingenious so you do have to follow the plot quite carefully. But its undemanding in other ways in terms of, you’re not dealing with very controversial subjects, you’re not being challenged on that level. It’s a gentle show; it’s not trying to be provocative. There’s no violence. Instead there’s humor, good character dynamics and interplay between them. People love their crime drama, in whatever way they come. People love trying to crack it themselves and I think that’s part of the attraction, the actual who done it element.