Exclusive: Shantol Jackson talks future as Naomi Thomas on Death in Paradise
Death in Paradise has a new sergeant helping out Ralf Little’s DI Neville Parker solve crimes on the little (but deadly) island of St Marie, and we couldn’t be happier than Shantol Jackson, AKA Naomi Thomas, has stepped into a leading role.
The Jamaican actress has become fast fan favourite thanks to her character’s driven work ethic and fast thinking, easily filling the void that Josephine Jobert left when Florence left the show once and for all in 2021. So what has season 12 been like for the rising star? From potential romances, exploring the island, learning French and raiding the costume department for Naomi’s gorgeous looks, we sat down with Shantol to chat all things Death in Paradise…
Let’s talk about Death in Paradise! It’s season 12, where is Naomi at?
She's just back from spending Christmas at Saint Barnabas, which was awesome. She’s a lot more confident, she's done a whole year with the inspector and the team has gelled now. Marlon and Darlene have settled in and we have a team.
WATCH: Shantol Jackson reflects on Naomi Thomas in Death in Paradise
She's a lot more confident. She's working with the inspector and is comfortable with him. She knows his ways and his weirdness so she's very comfortable and just very excited to do her best and represent her country.
Is there more of a camaraderie and friendship with the other characters?
Definitely! Especially with the inspector because he's a bit quirky but she understands him and I think that's one of the reasons why they work well together and they've pretty much gelled. And so she's very excited to evolve in the department.
Naomi is one of our digital issue stars!
Does that translate to real life as well?
Yeah! In Guadeloupe things are a bubble. So we hang out together, we go to the bar, we all live close together, or some people stay at a hotel, so we might go there on a Friday night or a Saturday. So we are friends on and off camera.
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That's lovely. And like it's really nice to hear as well because I know you guys had to film over Covid, so it must be nice to finally be able to enjoy the island properly.
Finally! There's so much to explore, so much I haven't seen. Guadeloupe has 200 waterfalls and I’ve been to one. Last year we couldn’t do anything, it was just a bubble. Socialising outside of the production was not an option.
Shantol has been exploring the island
And so in the last part of filming this series, when I started to venture to the other side of the island and socialise more with local people, it's really nice, it's really lovely. But you know, you always go back to your production because those are who you know and who you’ve developed a relationship with.
Did you get on particularly well with any of the guest stars? Do you show them around a bit?
I mean, was that anyone you particularly enjoyed working with this season and you know did I really love the guest cast from the Christmas Special. I loved Jo Martin and Joseph Mydell. It’s funny because I was behaving like I was his daughter. Like i say, ‘Don't do that!’ and he’d say, ‘You’re like my daughter!’
Shantol plays Naomi Thomas
We had some really lovely people but I really enjoyed most of the guest cast this year. We had a lovely set and I don't have much experience working up in tv and in different shows, but it must be special when most of the people that come in, you gel with them. And they're there for two weeks, but we have such a good time.
It says a lot about the show that you have these incredible guest stars. Touching on your experience on TV, this is such a unique situation - you’re living there for half a year. What is that like? Do you look forward to it, or do you look forward to getting back to reality?
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Now I’m used to it and look forward to going back. It really does feel like home and you have a villa, you have a vehicle.
The first year was a bit, ‘Oh I want to go home and I miss my family,’ but now I do look forward to going back and settling in. It’s because I didn't get the opportunity to see the island much in the first year but now I'm experiencing it, it's so beautiful. And there's so much to learn about French culture, and I'm actually getting a French tutor.
Naomi opened up about learning French
Isn’t Ralf learning French too? You could practice together!
Ralf is really good at French. He pretends like he's not. ‘Oh I'm just the beginner.' And then he reels off like, six sentences back to back and he has conversations in French with the French crew, which is lovely because, of course, he shows that appreciation for the language.
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Naomi is officially a DS in season 12
And you're making an effort because you're working with those British and French crew, and not all of them speak English but they always make an effort. So it's nice when we make an effort to try to learn the language and communicate with them. Ralf is really good at French. I need to get to his level.
You've lost like a big french tutor because Josephine Jobert’s left, and I know you guys got on really, really well, so how is it without having her on the set?
I try not to think about it because I mean it's lovely to work with her but obviously outside of work, we became really good friends and we worked out together and I really haven't had that motivation since. It's really hard to get up by yourself and go to the gym and workout and also I'm doing a lot more this year because i'm stepping into her shoes and it's like big shoes to feel so and i wasn't prepared for all that.
Now that I know what to expect I can schedule my time better! We still speak. If she doesn't see me training, she'll go, ‘Shantol! I don’t see you at the gym!’ I miss her, but we do chat. Hopefully, I'll see her soon. We all miss her and I hope she's just doing the things that she wants to do the way she wants to do it and just having the best time.
Josephine left the show in season 11
Speaking of taking over Josephine’s role, that means you’re out of uniform and into normal clothes - and your costumes are gorgeous!
Can I just say a big up to our costume designer Lisa Phillips-Dodsworth. These departments sometimes don't get highlighted as much and they're in the background but Lisa’s costumes are so, so beautiful. I don't have to say, ‘I like this or don't like this,’ she just knows what works for me.
She knows what matches my skin tone, she knows what I like. As a matter of fact, we go in and I'll do fittings over the first week or two, and then after that, I'll say, ‘Don't tell me once I'm wearing, I wanted to be a surprise.’ So every morning, when I go in the trailer, it's a surprise.
Shantol opened up about her gorgeous costumes
I never know what i'm wearing for day one or day two or day three, but I know I love it. That's one of my favorite departments, she just gets it right every time.
Is there anything you’ve wanted to steal? The green jumpsuit? You need that.
All the time! She won’t give me the green jumpsuit. The green jumpsuit is like in Naomi's wardrobe. It won’t leave. It’s not something I can sneak away. But sometimes we do have costume sales and I can go and buy stuff.
I never knew you do costume sales!
I think it all goes to charity which is lovely, and it’s stuff that can’t be repeated, so it’s lovely.
There’s a whole episode where Naomi goes home - what was that like?
Oh listen, I was so exhausted at the end of that episode. It was really an emotional journey because of course, Naomi's going back to her hometown and someone there is murdered and everyone on Saint Barnabas is like family because it's so small. So this is someone she knows, it’s her best friend’s dad. These people that you know and love are now murder suspects and how the balance being a professional but also being a friend. It was an emotional roller coaster, but it was also so beautiful.
It starts with a beautiful wedding. I got to dress up again! I love that part!
Shantol chatted about her favourite episode
It was beautiful and we got some excellent guest cast… We had a really good time and I'm very excited for everyone to see it. I'm a bit nervous because I haven't seen it. I haven't seen it. I don't know what it looks like. I know what it feels like but I don't know what it looks like.
So I'm nervous but I'm also very happy and I think we did a really good job.
It’s so nice that they're expanding Naomi's character as well. Was it a good feeling when you got those scripts and realised it was focused on your character?
It's always good to see that because as an actor you always want to be challenged. You always want to do more than you did the last time. And so I was exhausted at the end because you know the character was really challenged emotionally and balancing these relationships on camera making it real. I hope we see more of that.
Shantol opened up about the emotional episode
It could be another spin-off! Death in Another Paradise!
Right! It would be nice. It's always good to explore the characters. The characters aren’t one dimensional. So it's always nice to go into the character’s personal life and see what is happening outside of just solving crimes.
Would you want to be a part of Beyond Paradise?
I would be on the next plane out! I would love to be there and love to work with Kris. He’s amazing, that’s why he got a spin-off because he’s so loved by the audience. I haven’t seen it yet but I’m excited to see it. I’m sure Naomi would happily come over to work with Humphrey, solving even more crimes.
Will Naomi ever get a romance storyline?
I don’t know! She's so focused now, maybe… I don't know! We have to wait and see.
She's a workaholic!
She’s a workaholic! Bear in mind that she’s also new in Saint Marie, she’d have to get to know people and go out and socialise and meet new people. I don't know if she's open to that, just yet, but you never know.
Could romance be on the horizon for Naomi?
In Death in Paradise, with a couple of exceptions, the cast has completely changed since season one, do you know when your journey on the show might end or is the sky the limit for Naomi?
Well, there are no limits for Shantol! I can’t say right now, I'm really enjoying the show. I'm excited that we have a solid team now. We're learning to work with each other so it can only get better. So I don't mind being there right now. I don't know how I will feel next year or the year after that. But I am looking forward to the next season and I'm excited, I'm really loving it right now. So let's hope that continues. We'll see.
Do you have any resolutions for 2023?
I don't usually make New Year's resolutions. It's more of a manifestation, I guess it's the same thing. I'm just trying to be healthy and happy. That will be me in 2023!. That's what I'm going in.
I want to be in a new space, I find that especially when you work so hard, it takes a toll on your body physically. And so, if you're not in a good space mentally and emotionally it adds to the exhaustion. So you're not just physically drained, it just breaks your body down. I'm just trying to be as healthy as possible. I'm trying to be as stress free as possible, so that I can do my job effectively and I can be the best version of myself so that I can be that for everyone else because you can't be that for everyone if you're not for yourself first. So happy and healthy for 2023!
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