Ralf Little: ‘I relished the challenge and threw myself into doing the best job I could’ – Interview

By Olivia Emily

1 year ago

C&TH chats to the lead of BBC's Death in Paradise

Have you been tuning in to the new season of Death in Paradise? Every Friday night, the BBC transports us to our favourite sun-kissed slice of the Caribbean for mystery and intrigue. Now in its twelfth season after debuting in 2011, Death in Paradise has been lead by Ben Miller, Kris Marshall and Ardal O’Hanlon. And now Ralf Little, the Oliver nominated actor who arrived in the Caribbean for the ninth season in 2020 via Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, The Royle Family, and a slew of film credits (including Underdogs and Nativity 3). But what is it like to film in Paradise? We sat down with Ralf to talk all things Death in Paradise season 12, lessons learned from coworkers and rescuing dogs.

Interview: Ralf Little On The New Series Of Death in Paradise 

Ralf Little on a chair

Photographer: Joseph Sinclair. Styling: Sarah Harrison. Grooming: Charlie Cullen.

Hi Ralf, it’s great to be chatting with you today. Firstly, what can viewers expect from the new season of Death in Paradise?

Well, it has the usual puzzles and mysteries that viewers have loved for the last 11 seasons, but this year all the main characters face their own personal challenges like never before, and Neville [Ralf’s character] in particular faces his biggest challenge yet.

Intriguing… What was filming like?

Fun, tiring, challenging, rewarding, difficult, enjoyable, and hot! Everyone in the cast and crew feels lucky to be there, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its own challenges and we all work very very hard to make it what it is.

Has it been nice to film in such beautiful settings?

Of course! There aren’t many jobs where you can struggle through the long hours, the heat on set, the exhaustion…but then swim in the Caribbean Sea after work and sip a local rum as the sun goes down over the water.

Sounds dreamy. Any funny on-set stories?

A lot of the time new actors or crew members don’t realise at first that Harry the Lizard is actually a CGI effect and not a real, trained gecko. We have a lot of fun letting them believe it for as long as we can, winding them up about how difficult ‘he’ is to work with!

Love it. What was it like joining the cast of such a famous TV show?

Honestly, exciting. I didn’t feel nervous during the entire shoot – I just relished the challenge and threw myself into doing the best job I could. It was only on the night my first episode was going out on TV, with about 20 mins before it started, that the enormity of the responsibility really hit me. That was a tough 20 minutes! Luckily it seems to have worked out OK.

Absolutely. You’ve now done Death in Paradise, Royale Family, Doctor Who… Do you have any more bucket list, iconic British TV appearances?

You can add Robin Hood to that list too! It may not have been as big a show as the others, but it was still great to be part of such an iconic story and character. On which note, I guess Sherlock would have been fun to do. I’ll just have to keep working until they do some more remakes!

Ralf Little photographed on a chair

Photographer: Joseph Sinclair. Styling: Sarah Harrison. Grooming: Charlie Cullen.

Fingers crossed! Which character that you have played in the past do you relate to the most in your own life?

Truthfully, I rarely get to play a character that is very much like me at all. Neville, for example, is quite reserved, unadventurous, whereas I’m something of an action junkie. But there’s always some of you in whoever you play because you draw from your own experiences, even subconsciously. So, on some level, I love them all.

Who has been your favourite actor to work with?

Oh, that’s a difficult one! There are so many jobs that I’ve done for so long that by the end of them you do feel like a family and make lifelong friends. Don Warrington [who plays Selwyn Patterson] is an absolute legend, as are all the Death in Paradise cast – Shantol [Jackson, who plays Naomi], Ginny [Holder, who plays Darlene], Tahj [Miles, who plays Marlon], Elizabeth [Bourgine, who plays Catherine]… The Royle Family cast were my first real intro into my career proper, and they’ll always have a special place in my heart. I miss Liz [Smith] and Caroline [Aherne], Doreen [Keogh] and Geoff [Hughes]. We lost them too soon.

Which co-star did you learn the most from?

Maybe Craig Cash. Not even about acting, per se, but more about how to be – how I wanted to be – on set and at work. Craig was the co-writer, creator, producer, and star of my first big job, but he carried all that power with such gentleness and decency that he commanded respect just by being him. Him leading by example was a big deal to 17 year old me.

Sounds inspiring. What about football – what’s the most memorable game you ever played?

Well, obviously I played in SoccerAid against some of my heroes, but actually there are a couple of even bigger ones for me. The Match was a Sky One show that preceded SoccerAid and was somewhat more competitive, and in 2005 I just so happened to have the game of my life on national television. That was a special night for me.

Sounds it! You’ve shared on Instagram that you have rescued two puppies from the streets of Guadeloupe – can you tell us a bit more about that?

Yes – I’ve rescued two and taken them to America. One lives with my other half’s family and sadly we lost the other in a road accident. But, in fact, I’ve actually had a hand in rescuing four so far, helping to foster them until they were able to find homes. One is now in Windsor and the other in mainland France. This year, after a lot of research, I discovered a wonderful organisation actually on the island [that Death in Paradise is filmed on] called COPA Guadeloupe. It’s a network of volunteers that rescue stray dogs and cats from the street, take them to the vet, foster them, and send them to France to be adopted. Working closely with them has been amazing, not least as the previous rescues were tricky as we had to figure out all the logistics ourselves.

Sounds like amazing work! You now work with animal charities, raising money and awareness – can you tell us a bit more about that?

COPA Guadeloupe is in desperate need of a permanent shelter for animals it reduces, as well as financial support for vet bills and care. It’s run by volunteers and makes absolutely no profit. I’ll be doing whatever I can to help them, both in their spaying and neutering programs (which of course helps the problem of overpopulation) and their rescue endeavours.


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A post shared by Ralf Little (@ralf.little)

Do you get to spend much time at home amongst all of this?

In many ways, Guadeloupe has been more my home than anywhere these past three years. I’ve been there for six months constantly each year! There’s nowhere else I can say even comes close to that! But, when I get back to the UK, it’s lovely to settle back into routines and visit my family, many of whom have now moved down to Devon. So I guess, at the moment, I straddle a few worlds.

Do you live in the town or the country? Which do you prefer?

I grew up in the countryside north of Bury, Lancashire. Though it could be bleak and harsh in the winter, even then there is a stark primal beauty to the landscape. And, in the summer, beautiful, green rolling hills. I moved to London when I was 19, and that’s still where I technically live. Although there’s probably more time now when I’m in the US or the Caribbean. I’m not sure if I prefer the town or country – I think I’m just lucky to split my time between the two.

How do you find balance in your personal and work lives?

With difficulty! In Guadeloupe, the whole cast and crew works and lives together in close proximity for six months. It could potentially lead to friction, but luckily everyone gets on very well. I think it’s important to know when you need your own space and when you need company, and recognise that in others, too.

Definitely. Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?

I’m about to head to Germany for a couple of weeks, then New York for a little while, as my other half is out there. But, as always, I’ll be on the lookout for projects and scripts that excite and interest me. I’m lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Paradise – I certainly don’t need holidays right now!

Ralf Little on a chair in black and white

Photographer: Joseph Sinclair. Styling: Sarah Harrison. Grooming: Charlie Cullen.

Quick Fire

I’m tuning into… Succession. Just brilliant and darkly satirical.

What I’m reading… Jingo by Terry Pratchett. Also brilliant and (lightly) satirical. I was going to give it to my niece for Christmas but decided I wanted to read it again first. She got a hairstyling set instead, which she’ll probably appreciate more!

The last thing I watched was… Death in Paradise, season 12 episode 2!

What I’m most looking forward to seeing… The Last Of Us. I’m a big fan of narrative video games and the original TLOU has a strong claim to being arguably the greatest ever. The TV adaptation looks incredible.

Favourite film of all time… Changes a lot depending on what I’ve watched recently… Right now maybe Pulp Fiction? Ask me again next week!

Band/singer I always have on repeat… Radiohead and Marvin Gaye at the moment. How’s that for an eclectic mix?!

My ultimate cultural recommendation… Travel to Costa Rica. Most incredible country I’ve ever been to.

Cultural guilty pleasure… I’m not much of a reality TV person but I did enjoy The Traitors.

What’s next for me is… Travelling – but for life, not leisure. I don’t seem to stay put for very long these days.

Death in Paradise airs on Fridays on BBC1. Catch up on BBC iPlayer.

Featured image: Photographer: Joseph Sinclair. Styling: Sarah Harrison. Grooming: Charlie Cullen. (cropped)