Interview OnBox

Talking to Tobi Bakare of Death in Paradise

British Actor Tobi Bakare is a one of the main cast members on BBC One drama Death in Paradise, filmed on the French-Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, the eighth series of the award-winning drama will continue to keep audiences guessing with intriguing mysteries, cunning plot twists and a star-studded array of guest cast. There’s a new face on the team, as uniform officer Ruby Patterson arrives with energy to spare and her own unique take on crime fighting. Officer JP Hooper has got his hands full in trying to manage and train her, not least because she is the commissioner’s niece. We are were lucky enough to spend some time talking to Bakare.

AA: Can you just tell us a bit about what’s it like playing Officer J.P Hooper for the last five years?

Tobi Bakare: Firstly, he started off the show very sort of like deer caught in the headlights and you kind of see him grow over the years. He got married and you know he kind of sort of found himself, he starts a new job and you have seen him basically trying to find the tone of the new job. Fortunately, he had Danny John-Jules’s character Dwayne Myers who is sort of a mentor to a degree and nothing goes by the book with that character and now JP he has just kind of found himself and is a lot more secure, a lot more positive and a lot more decisive in all his actions. Playing the role is fantastic. I mean the character itself is a character that has a lot of charm and it represents an innocence that you don’t really see in society.

AA: You are a Londoner, what’s it like having to spend so much time away from home filming?

Tobi: Yeah well, we spend about six months out in Guadeloupe, Saint Marie which is quite a long time and a one week break in between that. It’s fine it’s fine. I mean I kind of come sort of become accustomed to it. I got married in 2014. And while we were preparing for the wedding, I spent two and a half months away came back and a month later got married. So that was interesting. My wife and I have just spent quite a bit time away from each other because of my ambition. I have two kids and when she was pregnant, she could not come out with me having to plan that sort of balance, so we communicate we talk. And I’m also in Guadalupe and it’s a beautiful country. You know it’s such a contrast to London, it has a siesta.  You know you can’t find a restaurant open after 3 o’clock to 6pm and it’s just a different way of life. But it does give you time to reflect and to recuperate. And it is yeah, I think London can get pretty busy.

AA: So, what can we expect from JP in series 8 and Officer Ruby arrives who’s one of the new recruits?

Tobi: So, you know what we can expect for the new season from episode 5 and six there has been a lot of change So we’ve Josephine’s character Florence she left in episode 6 we obviously start the season without Danny John-Jules who played Dwayne Myers. Yeah there’s a lot of change and we get new energy in the form of Shyko Amos. Oh she does not like me using this example but her character is like a puppy that is just running and I have to kind of pull on the leash continuously because she just has a style of doing things that actually she’s actually like a deer caught in the headlights in a really weird way in the sense she does not have a clue where she is. And my character is sort of trying, well he takes responsibility appointing himself to guide her, but I think she’s a bit much for him. You kind of just see new dynamics in relationships building this season and you see a lot of interesting action by the end of the series. And five or six especially takes a great change. And episode 7 and 8 is quite distinctive.

AA: So, this is a very small cast. Do you prefer working on with a bigger cast or does it even make a difference?

Tobi: To be honest it doesn’t make a difference I mean. Yes, there is a core cast that are four cast members we have so many guest artists coming. We never really feel like it just the four of us. So, it is a pretty big cast by the end of the season probably we have had like 50 people come in it’s quite a lot. I mean the amount of cast does not matter if the quality is good then I’m happy.

AA: And what do you like about JP as a character and what resonates with you. How similar are you to him?

Tobi: (Laughs) Well I mean no I wouldn’t say I’m similar, but people would probably say I am similar. There’s a level of innocence about JP it’s quite pure. I can be very much like that. Sort of like a better to be safe or sorry type of person. I’d say that a similarity is, and I don’t know if the show planned to do this, but I got married in 2014 quite quickly. I met my wife in February and proposed to her August so it’s pretty quick about six months. And JP had a very similar thing you know in a whirlwind romance and it was like he met her again straight away almost straight away got married. Looks like the show is looking at my life.

AA: And JP’s character seems to have this nervous relationship with the Commissioner it’s kind of like he’s almost in awe of him and afraid of him and admiration. What’s it like working with Don Warrington?

Tobi: I call Don my uncle. He’s my uncle. We have a great relationship. Always laughing always so much banter you know, he never actually positions himself as any form role model or anything like that. He kind of just does what he does but in doing that you know there’s is a level of perfection. I like Don he’s very humble and yeah, we just get on. We have laughter and jokes, it’s awesome. He is a really really good guy.

AA: In terms of your acting career where did you start?

Tobi: So, I. Funny enough I did not want to be an actor at all. When I was about 13, I was in my secondary school and there was an agent called Femi Ogun well who at the time was an actor who runs Identity Drama School. And he was at our school promoting his drama school that’s when Identity just started out. One of the girls in my school found out so she felt I was like the class clown she felt I should go to the drama school. I was like alright cool. The first day I was there I was just I stayed because I was probably attracted to a lot of the pretty women there I and I was like I would definitely out come back but back then I was playing football and football was really my thing. That kind of, that dream was kind of killed when I went for a trial. I was going to leave drama school full stop but Femi he had a chat with me to carry on. I don’t know what came over me and I just listened and carried on training. From there I kind of booked my first job. You know so there was a level of training I spent about 10 years training at Identity. So, a long time but it was part time so it may not be recognized as full time drama school, but ten years of training is quite a long time.

AA: Death in Paradise has many the plots and twists. Do you get to read the whole script, or do you find out at the end who commits the murder?

Tobi: No! we get the full scripts. I mean that is more of a choice if we choose to go ahead and you know read who has done it but it’s probably wise if you want to prepare your lines. But the script is there and always nicely done and is there for us to read.

AA: So, in terms of your let’s say acting any roles that you would really like to play do you have a list of roles that you would like to play on screen or stage?

Tobi: Yeah. Funny enough first acting job was Macbeth, an African sort of French African adaptation of it. And it was a powerful one. It is one of the reasons why I wanted to be on stage I wanted you to perform. And since then like watching an actor called Danny Sapani playing Macbeth and since watching his performance since being part of that play, I’ve always wanted to play that role as an actor. Macbeth for me is one of those roles that I would call a marker on my career?

AA: Do you see yourself doing the Hollywood thing and taking time out to go to L.A?

Tobi: Yeah. Well I mean my thing is that everything in god time. You know like I’ve learned some amazing qualities while doing Death in Paradise. You know, what it means to be patience, what stops a person from being patient is competitiveness and competing with other actors. So, I’ll call myself a fine wine and I’m good I take my time. Hollywood is there I have representation there, it’s there. It’s ready when I’m ready to sort of crack on and do it, for now I’m holding it in. I’m just embracing doing Death in Paradise.

AA: And you do a good job, this is a question for anyone. Maybe a younger person or somebody who wants a career change, anyone who wants to get into acting what kind of advice would you give, what have you learned along the way that really works for you?

Tobi: Yeah yeah. That’s, that’s a great question. Well I also run an acting coaching company called the Wrought Artisan and the reason why I mention it is because we specialize in creative integrity. One of the things I had that impressed me working with Chris Marshall and Danny John-Jules is how precious they were over the creation of their characters and something really hit me. You know that if the actor doesn’t take ownership over their roles and over their talent then something that is raw and innocent and pure which is the talent will get suffocated and lost in the industry. You know it involves trying to impress, trying to work out how to do it. So, my thing is creative integrity. That’s the heart of the company creative integrity you know getting your vision out there. You know honing on your craft honing your talent and allowing the talent to do the talking. You know and just presenting what you have you know rather than trying to impress people. It is too hard to impress everyone so just focus on what you know you have in the pocket.

AA: So, this company is a company that provides a services for actors?

Tobi: Yes. So, we have four services. Which includes Acting Coaching, one to one acting coaching services. We have Prepare for Work that’s when an actor has booked a job. We basically help them build their character. We have a self-take service as well which is a big thing now, we have Audition Prep service. Acting coach is not really a big thing in UK but it is a huge thing in America. Our coaches are all actors and are all in the industry. And so, our philosophy is let them to help you. These are very talented acting coaches who also ran workshops. We collaborate with great companies like Punch Drunk Theatre company and are in talks with quite a few other companies. But yes, we focus everything on the talent of the actor. And by doing that we work on their mindset and the mentality they approach the industry with.

AA: You play police officer on Saint Marie where there obviously are Police officers do you ever get any insight from the police there?

Tobi:  Yeah, I mean to be honest with you my inspiration is probably not even from the Caribbean. It is probably just from Nigerian police officers which is where I’m from. And they are very very authoritative, you know if people watch the show one thing about JP is that when he’s handling a criminal, he’s not sympathetic. Very very very like down, down the line with them. You know he’s quite a skeptic to quite a lot of the suspects he often takes a skeptical stance. And that comes from everyone is sort of guilty until proven innocent. That is opposed to everyone’s innocent until proven guilty. So, this is just kind of the thing that I can take from Nigerian officers and their authority and how they can approach things the good parts.

Main Cast

  • DI Jack Mooney… Ardal O’Hanlon
  • DS Florence Cassell… Josephine Jobert
  • Officer JP Hooper… Tobi Bakare
  • Office Ruby Patterson… Shyko Amos
  • Commissioner Selwyn Patterson… Don Warrington
  • Catherine Bordey… Elizabeth Bourgine
  • Patrice Campbell… Leemore Marrett JR

Death in Paradise Series 8 is now on DVD you can buy your copy on Amazon

Are you an actor and would like to learn more about Identity School of Acting click here.  

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