Death in Paradise star on the importance of getting Neville's anxieties right
Ralf Little will return to screens tonight as DI Neville Parker in the hit BBC One drama series Death in Paradise.
As always, each episode will see a murder take place on the island of Saint Marie. It’s then up to the police force, made up of Neville, the Commissioner (Don Warrington) Florence Cassell (Josephine Jobert), Marlon Pryce (Tahj Miles) and newcomer Naomi Thomas (Shantol Jackson) to solve the case and work out who the killer is.
While the format of the show never changes, one of the factors that keeps things refreshing and exciting is the change in lead detective.
Neville Parker has been the main character in Death in Paradise since the middle of series 9 and when he first stepped foot on Saint Marie, he wasn’t exactly planning on embracing island life for the foreseeable.
There to simply do his job at first, Neville had his inhaler and sun cream at the ready, introducing himself to his colleagues while dressed in a suit perfect for an office in rainy Manchester – not the ideal outfit for working in 30-degree heat.
As series 9 ended and series 10 began, viewers learnt a lot about Neville. He wasn’t and still isn’t like his predecessors – Neville Parker is very different. He has allergies, anxieties, perhaps he has OCD (it has never officially been confirmed but he certainly shows signs of the disorder), Neville lives by routine and structure because it makes him feel comfortable and safe, something many of us can relate to.
Now, as series 11 begins tonight, many may be wondering if Neville Parker’s situation is still the same.
He’s settled into life on Saint Marie a considerable amount since his arrival, but ensuring viewers still see Neville’s traits and watch him face anxiety inducing challenges are just some of the reasons why this character is so important, as Ralf Little explained to Metro.co.uk:
‘I’ve been asked a couple of times “is Neville still struggling with his allergies?”. He hasn’t overcome it because that would be far too easy. A character must start somewhere and go somewhere. They are definitely dialled back in this series, but you have to think about whether the character is protected. You can’t just suddenly forget he’s got these allergies; we think about this very carefully. Neville is not a hypochondriac; he genuinely has had a lot of hurdles to overcome.
‘We’re trying to walk this careful line of “I’m not just a nerd”, “I’m not a 2-dimensial character”, he’s got that about him, sure, but equally, the way we phrased it, maybe Neville would’ve been a decent footballer! He might’ve been a footballer, but he never got out and played because he was allergic to the grass. He never took the chance and never tried to take the opportunity.’
As we continued our chat with Ralf, we were able to see just how much time and effort he’s put into developing complex Neville Parker, which has certainly helped a realistic and relatable portrayal.
‘What that has is an interesting psychological journey as he grew into adulthood where things just became too much risk for not enough reward’, he adds.
‘He would think “it’s just easier if I don’t try this restaurant because I might be allergic to something they serve”, it had become a limited life that he was experiencing, and I think there is quite a profound, philosophical idea to that. I think it was far more than just “yes it would be really funny if this guy just hated the sun and sneezed all the time”, it’s like yes, he is genuinely allergic to things, and they are a real pain in the backside for him, but the journey he’s been on has seen him realise the risk is absolutely worth it, nothing is insurmountable and it’s worth taking on these challenges to live a fuller life and for him to see that is huge progress’.
Death in Paradise viewers were waiting with bated breath after the series 10 cliff-hanger that saw Neville prepare to tell Florence how he feels about her.
During the show’s first ever Christmas special, fans discovered Neville’s attempt at asking Florence out didn’t go as planned.
When a mosquito landed on Neville’s forehead, Florence attempted to shoo it away, but ended up hitting her friend instead.
Neville ended up in A&E with a nosebleed – his plan to tell Florence about his feelings had been destroyed.
With Florence away for Christmas, Neville organised a video call with her and tried again, telling her that he’s grown quite fond of her and wanted to know if she’d like to go for a walk along the beach with him.
Convinced history had repeated itself, Neville carried on as normal, but unbeknownst to him, Florence had heard everything.
‘So that’s where we find him in series 11 and with the help of Florence, he’s really starting to consider the island his home’, Ralf says as he concludes part 1 of our chat.
‘His biggest challenge now is “how does he tell Florence how he feels, and where do we go from there?”’.
Series 11 of Death in Paradise begins tonight on BBC One, 9pm
Read part 2 of our chat with Ralf Little next week.
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