TV Quickfire: Joanna Lumley on new travelogue Joanna Lumley's Hidden Caribbean: Havana To Haiti
Joanna Lumley is back with her latest travelogue Hidden Caribbean: Havana To Haiti. We found out more about the new ITV show from the veteran actor
HAVE YOU VISITED THE CARIBBEAN BEFORE?
I'D BEEN to Jamaica to make a film about Ian Fleming [but] I don't know what I expected from Cuba. I've met lots of people who've been there, mostly to Havana, and they all said, 'Oh, the old-fashioned cars. Hurry, because it's going to change, and you'll lose that beauty of old Havana.' Well, I don't think that Cuba is moving fast enough for old Havana to change for a long time. They might put up a couple of new hotels but all the old splendour of the streets, and the beauty, it's a stunning city. I loved the idea of going somewhere that, for one reason or another, people don't go to as a matter of course.
Lots of people go to the Caribbean, but the revolution took the huge island of Cuba out of the running. Obama went there, when he was in power, and they were too thrilled almost to speak. He said they were going to open it up, and cruise ships were going to go there again from Florida. He said the USA would trade with them again. But Obama's term of office came to an end, Trump got in and shut everything again. Cuba is popular, but I think we went off the beaten track; and very few tourists have been to Haiti as it is still on the Foreign Office list as a country unwise to visit.
WHAT IS THE POVERTY LIKE THERE?
In Cuba everybody's poor. They have a brilliant education system; everyone is literate and educated. They train more doctors and dentists than almost anywhere in the world and lease them out, as it were, to African countries. But the average pay is $25 a month. Even doctors are only earning $45. Therefore, everyone has roughly the same income, which sounds Utopian – no envy, no class system, no snobbery – but the downside is that anybody who's got an idea, like an entrepreneur, can't get ahead with it. Everything is kept flat.
HOW SAFE DID IT FEEL?
It's as safe as houses. You can walk out on your own in the middle of Havana, or any of the cities in Cuba, and nobody would ever touch you. Immensely courteous, sweet, kind, honest people. But they are stuck in a time bubble of 1959. In all the villages, throughout the countryside, travel is by horse and cart, or bicycle: they can't afford the petrol. But it's an astonishing place and I would say, "do go there".
DID YOU EVER FEEL OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE?
What was out of my comfort zone was the heat. I wish you could feel the heat on television. I wish you could have a heat button. It was baking. I've been in hot places before, but it was just so humid. It was unbelievably, drainingly hot. In the place where they built the luxury resort, you're in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, the sea between Cuba and Florida, and the heat made us want to cry. You couldn't think how to get cool.
WHAT WAS YOUR PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT?
I loved Santiago de Cuba, which is where the revolution started, where Fidel came from the hills with this idea of overthrowing the top-heavy, over-rich government. Because most of Cuba was settled by the Spanish, it was built in a Spanish way around squares. Every square had a cathedral, a grand hotel, maybe something like a huge library, possibly a university. It's terribly grand.
:: Joanna Lumley's Hidden Caribbean: Havana To Haiti starts on ITV on Tuesday March 10