Death in Paradise star Kris Marshall heads to Cambridge and tells us: ‘My head was literally inches from the wingtip of the plane’
If you’re doing a play about cancel culture, is the only safe position to take that you have absolutely no opinion on the subject?
Kris Marshall, star of Death in Paradise and new spin-off Beyond Paradise, is coming to Cambridge Arts Theatre in a production of Charlotte and Theodore and certainly doesn’t want to be pinned down on his views.
The play raises questions about white male privilege and focuses on a couple working in academia, covering 10 years of their relationship.
“It just seemed very timely. It’s also funny and very brutal,” says Kris.
“Theodore is a university philosophy lecturer. He’s a bit of a star, almost like a rock star, of the philosophy department. And there is a brilliant female research assistant, whom he ends up having a relationship with and marries. Her star really rises as his starts to fall and then you watch him start to tap into a sort of terminal decline. And he becomes quite righteous. It’s quite painful to see - and this is where it becomes timely - in the way that certain men, I will choose my words carefully, can become when they feel like they’ve been sidelined or looked over.”
He adds: “It’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy and they go down the spiral. I’ve been doing the show for three weeks now. And it takes a lot out of you.
“It really is a comedy. But like all good comedies, it’s quite close to the bone as well.”
In the play, Theordore says that straight white men are being neglected. What does Kris think about that?
“Personally, I don’t have any view on that whatsoever. The world is the world,” he says.
“It’s up to art to represent that and I think it’s up to the audience to make their judgment… the audience can take their side or not take their side and often they flip as well, multiple times during the course of the play.”
He does admit that if he personally felt discriminated against he may hold stronger views, explaining: “I might feel differently if I felt like I was hard done by. But I’m very happy with my position in the world. So I don’t really have an issue with anything.”
“Personally, it’s not something I really care that much about. I’m quite an easygoing person. Unless it’s about litter… It is appalling in this country, litter.”
During the play, Kris’s character Theodore goes on a Twitter rant that gets him into trouble. Other actors have found themselves in hot water by expressing their views on social media, but Kris doesn’t have any accounts.
“There are countless examples of people messing up on social media, often without really meaning to,” he says.
“I don’t do any social media. As soon as Facebook came out in the UK about 2005 I looked at it because an ex-girlfriend had an account when it was very much in its infancy, and I was like, it’s not for me. Twitter specifically is a cesspit so no, I don’t have any social media. So that would never happen.”
He enjoys having a “dual career” of theatre on one side and his “commercial” work on the other, which includes his hugely successful TV comedy roles.
“I have a very commercial side to me, with my TV shows and stuff like that. But I also, on the theatrical side, I always like to find work that really kind of pushes (boundaries) because that’s what art should be,” says Kris.
“We found with the play’s audiences in Bath they really do respond to it. It’s one of those plays where people come out and they discuss it for hours afterwards.”
He said: “I like being on stage. I find it invigorating and depleting an equal measure. It’s where I started, in theatre. If I was to not do that anymore, I think I would get flabbier. I find it quite hard to get on stage these days, in some respects because of the adrenaline, but it’s also why I started doing this job in the first place.”
He is currently on screen in a return to his role of DI Humphrey Goodman in Beyond Paradise, which is a spin-off from the murder mystery show Death In Paradise.
In the show, Humphrey swaps tropical Saint Marie for sleepy Shipton Abbott, cracking cases and hoping to live happily ever after with fiancée Martha. Although it is set in a fictional Devon town, it is filmed in Looe, in Cornwall. Kris explains that the show has a different feel from Death in Paradise.
He says: “There was no point of making a carbon copy of Death in Paradise in Cornwall. I don’t think it would work and it would be lazy. So when Tony [Jordan] sent me through the first script, and I could see how unique it was, and then he sent me through the second script, and frankly, I thought that was even better. Then I really got excited about it because it’s what happens basically, after the happily ever after.”
The last time we saw Humphrey, he was leaving Saint Marie to be with Marta. It’s several years on and after a stint working in London the couple have decided to move somewhere quieter. But things don’t quite turn out that way.
What Kris enjoys the most about the role of Humphrey is the physical comedy, especially being able to perform his own stunts.
“I think the thing about the sort of bumbling characters and more clumsy characters is that they’re wonderful to play because physical comedy is a great part of what I do. And, if that’s one of your strengths, it would be silly to not play to those strengths. That has served me very, very well over the last nearly 30 years. And, one of the most important things for me is to do my own stunts.”
These have involved “diving off 10 metre high boards, a couple of cliff jumps and being hit by cars - things like that, nothing too dangerous”.
They sound fairly dangerous, but apparently the most risky was chasing a plane down a runway in a motorcycle sidecar during one of his final episodes of Death in Paradise.
“My head was literally inches from the wingtip of this plane. Going about 40 miles an hour,” he says.
“I was a bit worried that the plane would stop and I would carry on and end up going through a propeller or the bike would flip. There was a lot that could go wrong, but actually I hold it as one of my most favourite days filming ever because I find that exhilarating and it is part of the reason I do this job.”
But what he is craving most at the moment is some family time.
“I need to tuck in being a parent as well because I have young kids and I haven’t seen a huge amount of them in the last six months. I’d like to take some time off.
“The life of an actor is feast or famine. When you are busy you are really busy. And when you’re not, you’re sitting around twiddling your thumbs waiting for the phone to ring. It’s a very binary existence. I’ve been doing a lot of the other recently, and so I’m quite looking forward to finishing this play, which is after Cambridge.”
- Kris is in Charlotte and Theodore at the Cambridge Arts Theatre from March 27 to April 1. Tickets, priced from £20, are available from the box office at cambridgeartstheatre.com.