Danny John-Jules interview: Red Dwarf X, Death In Paradise & more…

Interview Jake Laverde 15 Jan 2013 - 07:31

Jake enjoyed a brief chat with Red Dwarf’s Danny John-Jules about playing The Cat, BBC drama Death in Paradise, and more…

Two months after Red Dwarf X concluded on Dave, and as BBC One crime drama Death In Paradise moves into its second series, we spoke to Danny John-Jules about playing it straight, returning to The Cat after fifteen years, and getting the Doug Naylor seal of approval...

Would you call Death In Paradise a continuation of the classic English murder mystery serials?

I think it’s a very British thing, murder mystery, and I think Death in Paradise is an extension of that, just adding something a bit different. The format is not really any different to any other murder mystery really to be honest with you, but I think what makes a murder mystery work is the characters and I think it’s how they solve the crime as characters. That makes the difference in Death in Paradise really, the relationships between the characters and how they drive the detective forwards to solve the crime.

You’ve got all your classic, as you say, murder mysteries and they will continue to appear on our screens. That type of film and TV I don’t think will ever go away. Why would Guy Ritchie do Sherlock Holmes? It’s not only good to try to something different, he obviously picked something that he was au fait with, but he was known for doing very much the gangster rugged stuff and then all of a sudden he goes into the murder mystery genre.

What can we expect from series two?

I would say more of the same, just better. Judging by the figures from the first episode, touching nearly seven million viewers, I would say that we’re looking good for the second series. 

Be honest then. Are there any downsides to spending six months filming on a Caribbean island?

Well, being anywhere for six months that’s not your home obviously starts to get a little bit samey. Working on TV obviously, every day offers up something different, and of course every couple of weeks we’ve got new guest stars that turn up so you get a sort of injection.

The only thing that you would obviously suffer with is that you’re not seeing people from home but as far as the work’s concerned, it’s pretty much… it’s a bit like working in Clapham with sun really!

That’s got to be an alien experience for anyone…

[Laughs] Well, we could have been doing Ashes to Ashes in a grimy warehouse in London and having to make eight episodes in Limehouse or something. I always say to people, look, we could have been doing Apocalypse Now, you know, two years in the jungle.

No-one really wants that.

[Laughs]

You and Ben Miller both have a background in comedy, what’s it like for you both to have to put on your serious face for this series?

If you look back, if you look at the industry, a hell of a lot of the major actors all seemed to be stepping in from comedy. If you look at the exports, Sasha Baron Cohen, Simon Pegg, Ricky Gervais, all these actors are comedians aren’t they? But they seem to be excelling in the dramatic world as much as the comedy world, so I think the days of people saying if you’re a comedian, you won’t get drama I think that’s all out of the window now.

If you go back to before me doing comedy, my background was dancing and then it was musical theatre, but I’m a bit of a comedian as far as my career’s gone. You evolve in your career and I think that’s a good thing. 

What was it like then, to go back to playing The Cat for Red Dwarf X?

Another classic British show, hey, I must be the classic British actor now! If you want to say that Red Dwarf’s a classic that’s okay by me! To go back to a classic is always good. I think people just feel comfortable in the show that they know, number one, is successful and number two, that they know the characters so well.

Are they doing Back To The Future 5 now? I think that’s the rumour, that Michael J Fox is doing Back To The Future 5 I might be going bonkers but it’s what I’ve heard. [While we’d never wish to suggest that Mr John-Jules is “going bonkers”, that’s not a rumour we can substantiate – Ed.]

Well, Ghostbusters 3 has certainly been on and off for the last fifteen years…

Whatever you look at, these trilogies, and people making three movies at a time - it’s pretty much writing your own cheque! Eight Harry Potter films… it becomes a franchise more than anything else. You’ve got to be pretty dumb to get them wrong once you start hitting series eight, nine, you’ve really got to make a big booboo to get them wrong.

I think that series ten after a fifteen year gap says it all. A fifteen year gap, and the actors knew the characters like yesterday, and that’s because when someone is consistent in their writing you always get good performances.

That’s what you’ve got with Death in Paradise, it’s the same thing you know. Robert Thorogood [Death in Paradise creator] and his company have come up with the goods, because I think that all boils down to knowing the characters. So the most important thing is that the actors feel really comfortable with the writing to the point where they don’t even have to think about the characters, it just comes out naturally and I think that’s really what both shows have. 

Both shows also share a great ensemble cast…

Exactly. Ben Miller was always vocal about that, he said that he felt a lot more comfortable when the ensemble were driving the show which I think you’ll see in this series, there’s a comfort that Ben has in that character that’s very obvious.

I don’t know if he’d take this as a compliment, but watching Death in Paradise, it struck me that Ben Miller was reminiscent of John Nettles…

It’s probably the characters, rather than the actors. Ben reminds me of so many different people as a person and I must admit that his character is definitely different to all the other sort of murder mystery characters out there, Midsomer Murders is much more quintessentially British to the point of the ridiculous, whereas Death in Paradise has got such a scope of characters that can appear and disappear. They can be from anywhere because the Caribbean is such a melting pot; you’ve got so much more scope to indulge in cultures and accents, and you can come from anywhere.

How does it feel to be finally known for a character who’s so radically different from The Cat with Dwayne?

You mean Duane Dibley? 

No! Dwayne Myers [John-Jules’ character in Death in Paradise]

I’ve already been there man, I did that twenty years ago!

I mean if you look, all the shows that I’ve done that have been successful, Barrington from Maid Marian and her Merry Men which was running in tandem with Red Dwarf was so different from The Cat, and Lenny Bicknall from M.I. High was so different from The Cat, Dwayne is again so different from the Cat that even Doug Naylor [Red Dwarf co-creator] commented on it, so that to me was the seal of approval, because it was Doug who wrote the first character who put me out there. I was certainly convinced when Doug mentioned to me that he thought the character was so different from The Cat and he liked the show.

Doug Naylor likes Death in Paradise, so what more can I say?

Danny John-Jules, thank you very much!

Death in Paradise continues this evening on BBC One. Read our reviews of Red Dwarf X, here, and our interview with Doug Naylor, here.

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