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IN MANY ways Kris Marshall reminds me of Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean). Aside from being spot-on with his comic timing, he has a face that would make anyone crack up, especially with his artillery of madcap expressions. He also has that hilarious gait, which is enhanced by his towering height.
Of course, viewers will remember him from his breakthrough TV role as Nick Harper in the hit series, My Family.
Several movie and TV credits later, he is back in a familiar playground with BBC Entertainment’s crime comedy drama, Death in Paradise.
In a twist, very similar to the first season when Ben Miller, as Richard Poole, arrived at Saint Marie in the Caribbean to investigate the death of a fellow British policeman, Marshall, as Detective Inspector Humphrey Goodman, arrived to find the culprit responsible for his predecessor’s death. Poole was stabbed in the heart with an ice pick before he could unmask the criminal involved in an identity theft investigation.
Whereas Poole was etched as a rather rigid character, Goodman displays more sangfroid and, combined with his accident-prone nature, is often mistaken for a tourist. This Inspector Clouseau-esque character, however, injects a breeziness into the series.
In a chat with Digital Spy, he shared: “I got the phone call saying that Ben Miller would be leaving Death in Paradise during the third series and would I be interested in being the new lead.”
At the time, he didn’t have an immediate answer as he wasn’t entirely familiar with the series – aside from the episodes he’d watched with his wife. Also, he was kept rather busy with a newborn in the house.
After going through the rigmarole of auditioning, he was pushed for an answer.
He laughed: “Do I fancy six months in the Caribbean? Let me think about it!”
Expanding on his character, he said: “He’s in his early 40s, married and wants a change in life, but doesn’t know what. Then, at very short notice, he is offered this position. Without really thinking about it, he gets on a plane. He arrives with two shirts and a pair of trousers. He is very distracted and disorganised. I call him a lanky Columbo; he sort of shuffles about a bit and doesn’t really know what he’s doing. But he is a brilliant cop.”
Of course, as the newbie detective he faces resistance from the others.
To step into a show that has already established itself is no easy feat for an actor. And Marshall acknowledges that he had his work cut out for him.
“When you work on a show from its inception, you have carte blanche to do whatever you want within the parameters of the script and the characterisation. You can do that in an existing drama when you join, too. But what you have to do is assimilate yourself into a show that already exists. So you need to walk that fine line of being completely different from the previous character – otherwise there is no point in bringing someone else in.”
And rock the boat he certainly has as an Englishman who feels like a fish-out-of-water in his picturesque new environment.
This isn’t a slick offering like Hawaii Five-0, but Marshall’s quirky charm smacks of another entertaining experience!
• Death in Paradise airs on BBC Entertainment (DStv channel 120) on Friday at 8pm.