Though spin-off television series are ten-a-penny on this side of the pond, it seems a little less common in the U.K. It’s not hard to see why. They’re a tricky prospect at the best of times, and many series have fallen under the weight of lofty expectations. But against those odds, several series have both matched their predecessors and exceeded them.
Following in the footsteps of Lewis, Endeavour and Ashes to Ashes is Britbox’s latest spin-off, Beyond Paradise. Serving as an ostensible sequel and equal to the long-running Death in Paradise, the new series picks up the story of fan-favourite DI Humphrey Goodman, played by actor Kris Marshall. When we last saw him, he was leaving his position on the (fictional) Caribbean island of Saint Marie to follow his true love Martha Lloyd (Sally Bretton) back to London to start a new life together.
When we meet them again, Humphrey and Martha have moved to Devon to be with her mother Anne (played by veteran actor Barbara Flynn) after the recent death of her husband. Though still very much in love, it’s clear that it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. As they cope with the ups and downs of relationship realities, Humphrey works to fit in with the local police force, and Martha aims to open her dream restaurant. With just the right balance between drama and humour, Beyond Paradise looks to be a perfect streaming addition for any Anglophile addict.
Stars Marshall, Bretton and Flynn sat down with media to talk about returning to beloved characters, filming in less tropical settings and what fans can expect from the first series. Here’s what they had to say:
It’s been over five years since you played Martha and Humphrey—what did you find yourself enjoying the most about revisiting them both?
Sally Bretton: It’s lovely for them to be back because they had that wonderful sort of happy ending, didn’t they? And it was great to get a chance to see what happened at the end of that happily ever after.
It’s a real love match, those two. They really do love each other. When we join them, they’ve been together five or six years, so life is more real and it’s not just sort of that holiday romance. And they’ve they’ve lived, you know. They’ve been through real things and supported each other through those real things, and so the relationship has deepened. And it was just great to explore that in a more real way, I suppose.
Kris Marshall: I would agree with all of that. They genuinely love each other. They’re genuinely sort of a beautiful fit, like a sort of beautifully glued together table. (pause) There’s an analogy. There’s a real, genuine love and commitment to each other. But they found each other in the end and they made it work.
But it was also a joy to obviously explore other areas of their life—the challenges, the personal issues they have to deal with. But doing that, keeping it honest and sensitive, but in a way that’s still entertaining. I think it was such a delight to see what happens when you undo that happy ever after box. You do it up and you truss it up in a nice little bow and then you put it away and you go, okay, well, that was the end of that. And then what happens when you undo it? What’s it really like?
That was the really fun thing about it. And of course, genuinely working with Sally again, it was just a joy.
The show obviously encompasses quite a range of tones. You’ve got the comedy and you’ve got the more sensitive aspects. How do you approach that as an actor? What are the challenges in that?
Bretton: I think when it comes to the sensitive stuff, you’ve got to play that as truthfully as you can. In Death in Paradise, Martha and Humphrey were very playful with each other, so we did want to retain that. But when it comes to the heavier stuff, you’ve just got to play it for real, I think.
Marshall: I think we’re dealing with issues that a lot of people will find close to their heart. And it’s important to represent those issues properly and sensitively while still keeping it lighthearted because deeply sensitive issues in real life can and are light hearted. That’s how people deal with them and their reality. So they’re real but they’re still light hearted. But also it’s important because in the arc of the show, in the grand scheme scheme of the show, it is a light hearted family show. So dovetailing those two sort of emotive differences is quite difficult. But I think Tony did it brilliantly and that runs through the whole series as well. And like Sally said, you just have to play the reality of the situation and hope that you’re representing those people who have gone through [similar things] themselves.
What were the biggest contrasts you guys found from filming Death in Paradise [in Guadaloupe] to filming in the U.K.? Obviously, it’s a completely different environment and I think Kris, both Tony and Tim said that you still found the heat quite unbearable at times, despite it being in the U.K. So what was the biggest contrast for you?
Marshall: I’m kind of joking about the heat, really. It’s a very different heat. And when it’s hot in England, it’s joyful. But although it was hot on occasion, the main difference is there’s no mosquitoes. Not yet, anyway. Not down in the southwest. And there’s no bitey things, maybe a few jellyfish, but that’s a welcome difference.
Obviously you’re a little closer to home as well, which you sort of feel. I mean, I’m from the Southwest anyway. I’m from Somerset, so born and bred. And so I know that area of the world extremely well. So you sort of feel a bit more at home, I guess? But the day-to-day challenges are the same. You’re still filming sort of 60, 70 hours a week. So those challenges remain, but they’re great fun. I love it. Best job in the world.
Barbara, we know Humphrey and Martha really well at this stage, but we’re just meeting Anne for the first time. Can you tell us a little bit about where she is in her life and alswhat it was like to jump in with people who are familiar with their characters and then building that dynamic?
Barbara Flynn: My character has just lost her husband, so Martha’s father has died, and they make the decision to go down to Devon to live or to be close and supportive, in a way. Having had a very fairly conventional, but rather lovely English marriage, with a glorious and adored only child, Anne suddenly finds herself without her husband. It’s a big difference, a great change. And it’s dealt really well, with the humour that people learn when you talk about bad things. But Anne’s life has become very, very much brighter when Martha and Humphrey come down. So it has changed.
She also throws herself into the community. She’s very active. She’s not always smiley. She’s got a reality to her. She’s got a kind of hard edge. But it’s a great adjustment after her husband died because they would do everything together and he was a great leader. That’s what’s written in the script. She would be there, but he would be the chairman of the arts committee, and she would be there supporting him.
And they lived in this idyllic cottage, which is where Anne still lives and where Martha and Humphrey come and join her. And her life is very much richer for them being down there. I think that it’s an interesting thing to cover because a lot of children, unmarried children or unengaged children, are going back to live with their parents because of the pandemic. So it’s an issue that taps into what’s going on. So I think she is pretty happy that Martha is down there.
But, of course, with proximity, you get more truth coming out and we learn about what’s really going on with our children. Not what we want to be going on with our children, but what’s really going on with them. And that’s also an issue that’s very dear to a lot of people’s hearts, I would have thought, and could be quite helpful with all the elements that are presented in the first series. I would have said that it could be really quite helpful to people as well as entertaining. What could be better?
And with such countryside to go to. I mean, come on. It’s just God given and wonderful. And it’s been a complete frolic. It’s been a frolic.
As with Death in Paradise, there are just some incredible guest stars you’ve got lined up for Beyond Paradise. Were there any guest stars in particular that you were so excited to work with or ones that you found yourself loving on set, too?
Marshall: We had some great guest stars. I loved so many of them.
I love Rufus Jones. He plays this art dealer and he’s absolutely magical at that.
You can see we had Ruth Maddock, in what sadly turned out to be, I think, her final TV performance. And obviously, I’m of the age where when I was a kid, we would light the fire. This is going to sound incredibly tweet, but we used to light the fire and torch crumpets and watch Hi-de-hi! She was huge. She was a massive part of my childhood. So it was a joy, although bittersweet in the end, to work with her. And she was so vibrant as well. And delightful.
And Phil Daniels. Legend. [He’s] playing a character called Marvelous Harris–a sort of slightly dodgy boatyard owner. What’s not to love about that? And Phil Daniels is doing a Devon accent as well. We all know Phil Daniel’s voice from everything from Quadrophenia to Parklife. He’s part of the lexicon, so it was incredible to work with him as well.
Executive Producers Tony Jordan and Tim Key have shared some of their early plans for second series. Is there anything you’d like to see from that? Like to see for your characters, potentially?
Bretton: I feel so it’s been such a big journey for Martha in this series. I’m really intrigued to see what happens for her if it carries on.
Marshall: Sally and I had a similar conversation to this, actually, during the first series. Humphrey and Martha go through so much during the series that we were like, ‘where do we go from here? Where do they go?’ But actually, that’s because we’re not writers. And then we spoke to Tony who was like, ‘no, I got loads of ideas, I got a steam train’. That’s why we’re not writers. We get presented the stuff and try to do that to the best of our ability, or depict that to the best of our ability.
Bretton: We just know that characters are in good hands, don’t we?
Marshall: Yeah, the characters are in great hands and Tony knows them really well. So, yeah, if we’re very lucky and fortunate enough to get a second series, then I’m sure we’ll have loads more fun.
Tune in to see what’s in store for everyone in the first series of Beyond Paradise hits BritBox on Friday, February 24.