After two years playing DI Neville Parker in Death in Paradise, Ralf Little isn't ready to pack up his rucksack just yet. With season ten of the hit BBC show having just finished airing, the actor has relocated himself from the Caribbean island of Guadaloupe, where he spent six months filming the show, to Florida, where he's delighted to finally be spending some time with his fiancé, the screenwriter Lindsey Ferrentino, who he was separated from for the duration of the show's shoot.
It's been a different lockdown for the 41-year-old actor, who admits he "lucked out" with his ability to spend most of the past year in tropical climes. But while sun, sea and palm trees sound like the perfect lockdown option, his travel for work has also meant separation from a lot of people he loves - including his mum and his siblings, who are in the thick of it back home as NHS workers.
Ralf chatted about the show in our first ever Spotlight feature
©Denis Guyenon / The Telegraph
Not that he's complaining. As we sit down with Ralf for the first of a new series of exclusive HELLO! Spotlight interviews, he reveals quite how much he adores his role, and admits he's loving the way the Death in Paradise audience is embracing his character, Neville. He also gives his thoughts on the series' cliffhanger - where Neville is about to reveal how he really feels about his colleague Florence Cassell (the duo has now been dubbed Florville by fans!). Plus - we find out the heartwarming details of the very sweet addition he and Lindsey have made to their family, with the addition of a stray dog they've adopted from Guadaloupe!
Congrats on another amazing series! There was a really brilliant response to it from fans...
The response has been overwhelming actually. It was lovely last year but this year it's really sort of caught fire. There were hundreds and hundreds of messages of appreciation and support - more than I ever really could dream of.
What has been really interesting, and is a credit to the writers and I hope reflects well on my performance, [is that] Neville’s character arrived and struggled with the environment because of allergies and all these things. People sometimes mistook that for, 'Oh he’s a hypochondriac'. He’s not a hypochondriac, those are real problems that he's trying to sort out.
What's been really lovely and interesting is there were a few - nothing prevalent or a problem - but there were a few people going, 'I like the show, I like the idea, but I think allergies are a bit much.' I was reading those thinking what people don't understand is that you can't have a character just arrive and everything's okay.
Ralf just completed a second series as DI Neville Parker
©Denis Guyenon / The Telegraph
You have to start from the position of something's wrong. And what's been really really interesting is watching people grow. It’s that idea of going, 'You know what, I'm totally on his journey with him, and I thought at first I was a bit annoyed, but now I'm just so pleased for him that he’s overcoming them.'
Was the initial response to Neville frustrating for you?
Not really. One, I’ve been doing this a long time. Two, you can't please everyone. I knew it was a starting point... it was the start of his journey. And yeah, you might as well complain that Frodo Baggins doesn't have much of a life in the Shire. It's a bit boring. If we actually keep watching, things are going to happen, so it didn't worry me too much!
Not everybody has to like everything that you do, that's absolutely fine, there are millions of people that loved it and that's all that matters. You can't get too worried about these things.
What happens to 'Florville' after THAT cliffhanger?
Well, first of all, I'm delighted that we are using Florville. That makes me very, very happy. I really hope this continues in the press and in the world!
You know if I was to tell you what I think [happens next], I genuinely don't know.
I think it could go either way as Neville’s come a long way, he’s a much stronger person than he was when he arrived on the island. He might have the bottle to go through with it. But then again, she's an intimidatingly charming and beautiful woman who he worked really closely with and so I'm afraid, you’re just gonna have to wait and see. And if it's any consolation, I'm going to have to wait and see as well!
Ralf opened up about his character's journey
©Denis Guyenon / The Telegraph
When will you be finding out?
Well, in a normal situation we would head out to Guadalupe in mid-April and we finish sometime in October. But last year for series ten, because of COVID, we put it back to July, three months later than we would normally go. We finished on the 20th of December, which is amazing really because they were still committed to transmitting the episodes on pretty much the same date in January - an achievement and a really nice slice of luck - but still a very hard thing to pull off.
I don't think we're heading back in April but I don't think we're going to be as late as July either. So all I know is we definitely want to go back and we’re trying to find out the best window for when that could happen. Nobody wants to leave it too late. In a perfect world, we'd get out there earlier rather than later, but the world is what it is at the moment. We just have to work out what we can do.
How was it filming and being separated from your fiancé Lindsey for so long?
We missed each other terribly, but you know, she works in the industry, and we understand that sometimes that's the way it goes. Obviously, that's exacerbated by a global pandemic that nobody could have predicted.
Ralf will be returning to film season 11 later this year
We didn't feel too sorry for ourselves. There are people out there that are really struggling at this time in this situation, in this pandemic. They're going through a really genuinely truly difficult time. We missed each other and we just put up with it as best we could and decided to speak to each other on FaceTime every day, and made sure that we kept a cool head.
After Guadaloupe you returned to Florida to spend time with Lindsey and her family. Will you be heading back to the UK any time soon?
I think all of my family have been vaccinated apart from me. My mum's in the right age range and my siblings are healthcare workers, NHS workers. But my mum hasn’t had her second vaccine yet so she’s not in the clear. It's a big risk to travel, especially an international flight, and I don't just mean a risk for me... Under normal circumstances, there would be loads of things I would miss about being back [in the UK] but in the current circumstances I feel like I've lucked out to be where I am.
Who would be a dream guest star for you in season 11?
Well people keep on asking me if I can get Will Mellor on the show, because we do a podcast together, but it’s a little tricky because Will’s already been in it
Death in Paradise prides itself on not getting the same actors and giving different parts away. They’ve never ever repeated the same cast until one day they made an exception for me!
The series has already been commissioned for seasons 11 and 12
©Denis Guyenon / The Telegraph
So I'd love to try and get Will out because we’d have such a laugh but it may be a difficult sell to the producers - we'll see. We always aim for huge, huge stars because why not, it's a really popular show. It's really well put together. It doesn't hurt to say to people you could come and spend two weeks in the Caribbean if you fancy so that's never a bad thing. It’d be great if Ian McKellen came out to do something.
Fly him out first class! I’d pay for it! Put him on a private jet, fly him out and let him play the dead body so he has like one line and then just one day's filming and then just swans around the set like an absolute legend.
The show has a tradition of switching the detective every few years. Do you know how much longer you'll be on it?
I don’t have an end date in mind. I’ll definitely be coming back for this one [season 11] without question and look, I just love it. I love the show; I love being in the show. I love working on the show. I'm a fan of it. I just absolutely love it,so I'm not in any hurry to finish. So who knows, I've got no plans either way. I'm certainly possibly the most well suited to it of all the detectives so far because I don't have the same family commitments.
What is the accommodation like as a main cast member?
There is a bit of friendly competitive villa nosing around when you’re there and mostly from me to be fair. Everyone is very, very lucky to be able to stay there in the accommodation that we do. I went and had a little nosey around Tobi's just to check, and Josie had a little nosey around mine. Tahj Miles is just 19 he was just like, ‘Oh my God. I can't believe it! Is this mine? Who else is staying here?’ So yes, there's a little bit of competitive villa nosing!
The cast stay in gorgeous villas on the island
I think it's pretty universally agreed that I have the best view but I don't necessarily have the best kitchen. It depends on what’s important to you. Josie had the nicest bedrooms and bathrooms and Tahj just had a PlayStation, he’s 19!
I must admit when I arrived for last season, I got there late at night and my mum, she came with me for a few days about a week before I was due to film so I could acclimatise, and I was met by the production company. I was picked up at the airport, driven to the villa. So we drove to the villa and it was in the dark so I didn’t really see the view in all it’s glory but it was still amazing.
I thought I was gonna have to rent my own place, but they looked after me and then they were like, ‘This villa is yours.’ And I was like, ‘This is ridiculous!’ But you know, we're just incredibly lucky.
In between filming, have you ever been approached to take part on a reality show?
The first answer is yes. I've been asked to do all of them every year. That's normal. I mean everyone gets offered, everyone gets approached to find out if they would be interested. That's it. And that’s more common than you think because they’re always looking for new people who haven’t done it. So to be asked is not that unusual. Would I consider doing it? Again, never say never!
Ralf is a huge fan of the show himself
I think that it's very easy to be dismissive of things. I think, people who participate in Strictly and do well in Strictly, they're learning a real skill, an art form, and there’s something really rewarding about that. The same goes for Dancing on Ice.
Will and I talked about it on the podcast and... [he] said [he'd go on] I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! I was like, 'Really?' Will said, 'It’s the biggest and why not?' So I said I’d be quite interested in Dancing on Ice, just for the fact that you're learning an entirely new skill. You go in not able to ice skate and you’d come out being able to do triple axels or whatever they do. So let's just say right now, I don't have any particular plans to be doing one, but never say never.
Finally, we hear you adopted a stray dog, Dora, during your time filming in Guadeloupe?
She's just gorgeous, I love her so much... There was this moment when we met her at the airport, and instead of having a long journey back - a three-hour drive back to Cape Canaveral from Miami - we stayed over in Miami with her because we wanted her to rest after her journey. So she got to the hotel and she was really well behaved and everything was fine. We weren't even a hundred per cent sure that we were going to keep her, the plan was just to make sure she was safe and then there's any number of families that we would have been able to find for her.
WATCH: Ralf Little introduces Dora to his fellow Death in Paradise castmates
We took her into the bedroom, we fed her and she was really happy, just really well behaved and then we went to bed. She curled up at the foot of the bed and we thought how cute, she's so little. There she is at the foot of the bed. That's obviously where she's comfortable sleeping.
We turned the lights off and we go to sleep and at about four in the morning, both of us are woken up by this absolute attack of pure love. Oh, it was insane. I think she went to sleep thinking, 'Okay, this is okay. I feel like I can sleep safely.' I'm not an expert but that is what we think she went to sleep thinking.
And then she woke up in the middle of the night pitch black dark, not knowing where she was, thinking, 'Where am I?' and then smelling that we were there and then remembering and then just being overwhelmed with just gratitude so she just ran up to the top of the bed and woke us both up licking us, dead excited, and she couldn’t stop shaking because she had never been cuddled so much.
And of course that was the decision made! We spent the rest of the night holding her in our arms and snoozing and then after the outpouring of love in the middle of the night, we woke up in the morning and were like, 'There is not a chance we can give this girl to anyone else.' Honestly, she melted my icy cynical heart.
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