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From Danny Dyer to the Inbetweeners: who will be the next Death in Paradise detective

Ralf Little in Death in Paradise
Ralf Little is the longest-serving Death in Paradise lead actor, but has now confirmed he has left the show - Denis Guyenon/BBC

DI Neville Parker has sailed into the sunset, leaving the island of Saint Marie without a baffled, sunburnt British detective at the heart of its police service. The show will return at Christmas, however, with a 14th series to follow in 2025. But who’ll be stepping into Ralf Little’s brogues?

The comedy-drama remains perennially popular. It was the sixth most-watched programme of 2023 with an average of 7.7 million viewers and the second biggest drama, behind only Happy Valley. Its magical mix of classical whodunit, recognisable guest stars and sun-kissed setting means it has nudged 10m at its peak. And it’s not just us Britons who love its calypso take on cosy crime. The show is licensed to 230 territories worldwide.

Ralf Little was the show’s fourth leading actor and became its longest serving, clocking up 39 episodes (plus a cameo in Beyond Paradise). Original detective Ben Miller served an 18-episode stint. He was followed by Kris Marshall (30 episodes) and Ardal O’Hanlon (24).

Speaking to The Telegraph recently, Marshall had his say on the fifth detective: “What I think would be really brilliant for the show now is that they have a person – whether a guy or a girl – of Caribbean heritage who’s grown up in Britain, is completely, for want of a better word, Anglicised, has never been to the Caribbean and finds it really hard.”

An intriguing suggestion. We run the rule over a few names who might be in the frame…

Honeysuckle Weeks

After four white men in a row, the diversity-driven BBC might well shake things up with the show’s first female lead. Crime stablemate Shetland recently made the same move for its eighth series. Weeks would be an inspired choice. She’s not just beloved from her role as driver Sam Stewart in the much-missed Foyle’s War but she’s appeared in Lewis, Poirot and even once played Agatha Christie herself (in 2019’s Frankie Drake Mysteries).

Foyle's War star Honeysuckle Weeks would be an inspired choice
Foyle's War star Honeysuckle Weeks would be an inspired choice - ITV


Simon Bird

The star of sitcoms Friday Night Dinner and Everyone Else Burns has been named as the bookies’ favourite for the role – possibly on the basis of him being memorably dubbed “Briefcase W---er” in The Inbetweeners. Still, Bird does do social awkwardness brilliantly and would be a good fit. Don’t rule out his Inbetweeners co-star Joe Thomas either.

Simon Bird and Kadiff Kirwan in Everyone Else Burns
Simon Bird and Kadiff Kirwan in Everyone Else Burns - James Stack/Channel 4

Rupert Grint

Solve crime-iarmus! Arrestum culprita! The actor who shall be forever known as Ron Weasley is now in his mid-30s, putting him in roughly the right age bracket. With his floppy red hair and puppyish energy, he could be Kris Marshall Part II. He’d also bring a huge following along with him. Could producers work their magic and persuade him?

Rupert Grint (far right) with his Harry Potter co-stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Rupert Grint (far right) with his Harry Potter co-stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros

Dylan Moran

Previous incumbents have been comic actors playing it straight, so stand-up and Black Books star Moran ticks that box. He combines the crumpled charm of Kris Marshall with the Irish whimsy of Ardal O’Hanlon and the cerebral smarts of Ben Miller. He showed his range in underrated 1990s gem How Do You Want Me? and 2022’s Stuck, both on the BBC. Smoking laws are looser in the Caribbean too.

A fine comic actor, could Dylan Moran (pictured here in Stuck) be a shoo-in?
A fine comic actor, could Dylan Moran (pictured here in Stuck) be a shoo-in? - Chris Barr/BBC

Danny Dyer

Since departing EastEnders, the geezer-ish cult hero has tried his hand at documentary-making and gameshow-hosting. He appears in Jilly Cooper’s Rivals this year but might fancy a longer-term gig in the currant bun (sun). You don’t get more fish-out-of-water than a Cockney in the Caribbean. Oi oi, saveloy, you’re nicked.

From Albert Square to Jilly Cooper: Danny Dyer
From Albert Square to Jilly Cooper: Danny Dyer - Andrew Muggleton/Sky

Stephen Merchant

The Office and Extras co-creator is often overshadowed by Ricky Gervais but hugely gifted in his own right. Merchant proved he could do drama by portraying serial killer Stephen Port in Four Lives. His BBC creation Outlaws fits into the comedy crime genre. His 6ft 7in frame – Gervais calls him “a stick insect with glasses” – would open up all sorts of comedic possibilities in Saint Marie.

Stephen Merchant's portrayal of serial killer Stephen Port in Four Lives proved he could do drama
Stephen Merchant's portrayal of serial killer Stephen Port in Four Lives proved he could do drama - Ben Blackall/ITV

Hugh Skinner

If producers fancied a return to the “bumbling posho” era of Ben Miller, there’s no better man for the job. Skinner has carved out a niche playing toff twits in the likes of W1A, Fleabag, Harlots and Poldark. He’s also the Prince of Wales in The Windsors, so it would be almost a royal seal of approval. In other Hugh news, Grant and Bonneville are too starry but how about Hugh Dennis?

Hugh Skinner and Louise Ford in The Windsors
Hugh Skinner and Louise Ford in The Windsors - Robert Parfitt/Kevin Baker/Channel 4

Diane Morgan

Best known for playing professional dimwit Philomena Cunk in mockumentaries, as well as roles in Motherland and After Life, Morgan would be a left-field choice but a fascinating one. She’d bring bone-dry wit and eccentric energy to the part, although her pale skin means she might struggle in tropical climes. That’s what parasols are for, right?

Diane Morgan won over audiences with her series of Philomena Cunk mockumentaries
Diane Morgan won over audiences with her series of Philomena Cunk mockumentaries - BBC

Mathew Horne

The Gavin & Stacey star also has The Catherine Tate Show and Bad Education on his CV, so certainly has the comedic chops. He’s in Agatha Raisin, which is tonally similar to Death in Paradise. Elsewhere in sitcom-land, names to consider could include Jim Howick (Ghosts), Tom Ellis (Miranda), Robert Webb (Peep Show) and James Lance (Ted Lasso).

Could training in sitcoms like Gavin & Stacey and crime caper Agatha Raisin make Mathew Horne a good fit?
Could training in sitcoms like Gavin & Stacey and crime caper Agatha Raisin make Mathew Horne a good fit? - BBC

Julia Sawalha

If the BBC decide the time has come for a female lead, stick Sawalha on the shortlist. She’s adept at comedy, drama and all things in between. She’s well-loved for the likes of Press Gang, Vera, Ab Fab and Lark Rise to Candleford. She even solved fiendish murder cases alongside Jonathan Creek for a while. Sweetie, darling, you’d be fabulous.

Adept at comedy, drama and all things between: Julia Sawalha in Vera
Adept at comedy, drama and all things between: Julia Sawalha in Vera - Stuart Wood/ITV

Laurence Fox

Well, he’s an out-of-work actor... He has crime-cracking pedigree from playing sidekick DS James Hathaway in Morse spin-off Lewis. And controversy-magnet Fox would certainly get the show plenty of publicity.

Laurence Fox already has crime-cracking pedigree from his time on Lewis: pictured here with Kevin Whately
Laurence Fox already has crime-cracking pedigree from his time on Lewis: pictured here with Kevin Whately - ITV

Got a suggestion of your own? Pop it in the comments below.


Death in Paradise is on BBC iPlayer