Kris Marshall had little trouble stepping back into character for Beyond Paradise. In the new BritBox series, a spinoff of lighthearted murder-mystery juggernaut Death in Paradise, the actor is again playing bumbling but brilliant police detective Humphrey Goodman, who regularly takes notes on whatever scraps of paper are at hand.
All Marshall had to do to channel Humphrey was don one of his old jackets, which the BBC had in storage. “They dug it out, and when I put the jacket back on, some of my old notes were still in the pocket,” he remembers. “It was almost like putting on a second skin.”
He may be playing the same character, but the six-episode Beyond Paradise, premiering Friday, February 24, isn’t a clone of its progenitor. Yes, there are still mysteries to unravel, but none involve murder. And instead of solving crime on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie, Humphrey is doing it in Shipton Abbott, a fictional town in the southwest of England.
It’s also where Humphrey’s fiancee, Martha Lloyd (Sally Bretton), is from. When Marshall left Death in Paradise in 2017, his detective inspector character moved back to London to be with her, and family and relationship issues will play a bigger role in the new series than they did in the original.
“We see Humphrey and Martha after their happy-ever-after,” Marshall previews. “How life really works, and what life is like for a couple who met each other later on in life and still want to achieve the dream of starting a family.” Martha’s professional life also keeps her busy — she’s working to open a café.
Some things, however, hearken back to the original Paradise, like the band of quirky colleagues Humphrey has at the local constabulary. He doesn’t make a strong first impression on Zahra Ahmadi’s Detective Sergeant Esther Williams, his by-the-book new partner, but their alliance yields results. Also helping suss out clues are Dylan Llewellyn, as overly eager constable Kelby Hartford, and Felicity Montagu, who plays civilian employee Margo Martins.
Marshall says to expect “subtle nods and homages” to Death in Beyond, even one to Harry, the CGI lizard who is still keeping new detectives company on Saint Marie. “There’s a new Harry, but it’s not a lizard,” he adds cryptically.
Humphrey’s first case contains the type of puzzle the show does so well. A woman is seriously injured when she falls in her home. He thinks she was pushed, but according to security cameras, no one else was in the house. While the victim is convinced the perpetrator was a 17th-century witch who came back to life, Humphrey looks for a more rational solution. Other cases involve a missing family and the burglary of a painting. Meanwhile, a person from Martha’s past pops up, played by former Battlestar Galactica star Jamie Bamber.
One advantage Beyond Paradise has over Marshall’s former series is its location. He doesn’t have to leave Britain to film it. Shooting 10 episodes of Death each year in the Caribbean kept him away from his family for long periods of time. Beyond, on the other hand, was shot last year around the River Tamar, in both Devon and Cornwall.
And that makes a difference. When Marshall’s Death in Paradise run started, his son was an infant. “He was very transportable. You could literally put him in your hand luggage and go. He’s now nearly 11 and he has his own life,” says the actor, who also has a daughter with wife Hannah Dodkins. “I found it increasingly difficult to spend long periods away from them. This was absolutely beautiful because they’re two hours’ drive down the road. They can come stay with me at the weekends and during school holidays.”
Certainly sounds like paradise.
Beyond Paradise, Series Premiere, Friday, February 24, BritBox