My France interview: Sara Martins
French-Portuguese actress SARA MARTINS plays detective Camille Bordey in the BBC television series Death in Paradise. She tells Zoë McIntyre about filming on the French island of Guadeloupe
Tell me about your experience working on the Caribbean island
It was fantastic – we work on the series for six months of the year almost every day and it was good to be immersed in the experience. The island is so beautiful and the people are really welcoming.
What did the locals make of the arrival of a film crew?
In the village of Deshaies, where we film, everyone – including the shops and restaurants – gets involved and many work as extras. They are happy we are there; they don’t mind us blocking the streets to film. In Paris or London they are not so happy about that kind of thing. We film when there are fewer tourists and it’s quite quiet, so they are really interested to get involved.
Have you been able to explore Guadeloupe?
On days off, we go on trips – there are small islands off Guadeloupe called Les Saintes that are so beautiful. On Guadeloupe itself, you can go to a waterfall, swim in rivers and walk in the forest. There is also a big music festival on the island of Marie-Galante every June called Terres de Bleus.
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Are there similarities between Guadeloupe and mainland France?
I certainly don’t feel like a stranger over there – it’s still a French island and there is French administration and the French flag. But the ocean, the weather and the culture make it different. Mainly, it’s their treatment of time. We come from Paris and London, and are in such a hurry, even over little things like going to the shops. They look at us like we are crazy and say “why are you rushing?” They are right – it’s too hot over there to rush about.
Ben Miller played the British detective in the first two series. What was it like appearing alongside him?
It was the first time I had played in a comedy and I learned a lot from him – he was always making suggestions, never afraid of being ridiculous and also thought about the little details that would make it funny – the way you blink or shake your head. It was hot for all of us – it is about 30-35°C, but with the lights on us to film it is close to 50°C, So you can’t blame him [for deciding to quit the show], 50°C in a suit and tie – who can deal with that?
Kris Marshall has taken over the lead role, as Humphrey Goodman. Have you built up a good relationship with him?
Kris has brought fresh blood to the series. He is lovely and funny and acts like a big teenager; he is too tall and clumsy! Richard Poole [Miller’s character] played to the idea of the British not blending in and being uptight. The new detective tries to blend in too much; he goes into the sun and comes back red, he eats local food that’s too spicy for him. He wears silly Hawaiian shirts. The contrast between the two is great.
Is Camille the archetypal French woman?
Playing Camille made me realise how French I am. Her way of always teasing and being a bit coquettish is definitely French.
Tell me about your acting career beyond Death in Paradise.
I trained at the Conservatoire de Paris – France’s big theatre school. My commitment to theatre is very important and I love being on stage. About ten years ago, I appeared in a play at the Young Vic in London called Le Costume (The Suit) and then in a French-language production of David Mamet’s Race. In between I star in a lot of television; while on Death in Paradise I’m doing a French TV crime series, Détectives. Many French people know me for a popular series called Pigalle. Then there are some movies. It’s great to have a variety between the stage and the screen.
How is it that you speak such good English?
My time on Death in Paradise has been great training over the past three years. I love speaking English, so I like to practise. Actually, I know the real reason. When I was a teenager I was such a big fan of U2 that I wanted to understand every song, so I would take my dictionary and look up the song lyrics. So it was thanks to Bono!
What can we expect from the next series?
Usually I know a little beforehand, but this time I really don’t. But now we have established the characters, we can go further into developing their relationships. I am really excited about how the relationship between Humphrey and Camille will progress.
The fourth series of Death in Paradise is due to be aired on BBC1 early next year.