All Creatures Great and Small Season 2 will pick up the story in spring 1938.
It’s three months after the Christmas special which saw Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton) back out of her wedding day to wealthy landowner Hugh Hulton (Matthew Lewis).
Here, in an exclusive interview, Nicholas Ralph who stars as vet James Herriot tells us if romance is on the cards for James and Helen now she is single again, what it was like filming season two and why this season promises to be even better than the first which was a huge hit for Channel 5 last year…
What was it like being back together and filming a new series of All Creatures Great And Small with all the Covid restrictions?
“It was certainly different. Even just going in to rehearse, all of a sudden you’ve gone from your flat with one other person to being back in a room full of people with all the cast and crew. But it was so good seeing everybody again. Being back on set and being back out in the Yorkshire Dales is like being home again.
“In my opinion season two is even bigger and better than the first. There are a lot more animals so a lot more procedures.”
For the first series you filmed in autumn and winter, this time it was spring. Did that make things easier?
“Well you say that, but when we filmed in autumn and winter, we never had any snow. This time we got ahead of ourselves. We thought, ‘It’s going to be lovely’ and then we had hail, sleet, snow horizontal rain. It was minus four degrees on some days. I was getting up 5am or 6am in the morning and it was minus four. Ironically, we got more wintery days this time than we did filming the first series.”
So can you tell us what James gets up to this series and how is he feeling about Helen?
“Well, there’s been a bit of separation between James and Helen. Helen’s taken herself off to just to be by herself for a bit and James has been stuck into work.
“He ends up back in Glasgow to help a vet out there for a couple of weeks so when the series opens, we find him back in Scotland. And then he gets the offer of a permanent job back in Glasgow.
“His mum is keen for him to take it so there’s this kind of push and pull for James throughout the series. He’s a lot more competent now both personally and professionally which I really like, he’s kind of grown into himself.”
Does he think that he’s got a chance with Helen now that she’s single again?
“Yeah, I mean he’s an optimistic guy. Certainly, it wasn’t the worst outcome for him at the end of the last series!
“I think he’s definitely hopeful. With Helen he found a real connection very early on.”
Have you had people asking when your two characters are going to get together?
(Laughing) “Yeah, all the time. My mum mainly!
“Everyone likes a happy ending. But we’ll have to wait and see. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride this series for James and there’s a lot going on.
“I guess he’s at a bit of a turning point, maybe a crossroads, personally and professionally as well. Where does he want to be? Where does he see himself in five years time?”
Tell us about some of the animals we’ll be meeting this series
“Helen’s little sister, Jenny (played by Imogen Clawson) has a dog called Scruff, who is a bit out of control, and James ends up helping Jenny train Scruff on how to behave around farm animals.
“He hasn’t really seen Helen for a few months and then all of a sudden he’s taking an interest in this dog and helping Jenny so he’s up at the farm.”
So he’s trying to get to Helen through a disobedient dog?
(Laughing) “Well if Scruff plays up, James ends up being around the farm a bit more, so happy days! So yeah, so that’s quite a nice little story and then of course, Tricky Woo is back, a fan favourite.”
What’s it like working with Tricky Woo?
“Derek who plays Tricky Woo (Mrs Pumpfrey’s pampered Pekingese dog) is just brilliant. He just gets better in every scene does little Derek. We had a scene where I had to anaesthetise him.
“I was acting out administering the injection and he was literally laying down perfectly quiet and still as if he was unconscious. The second the director says ‘Cut’ he just gets back up again. He can fall asleep on demand. He just gets better and better.”
Any of the pets you’d be tempted to take home?
“Little Scruff yes definitely. She’s played by a dog called Bobbi. She’s all doe-eyed and beautiful with floppy ears, she’s just gorgeous. She’s lively as well because she’s a young dog.
“Scruff was amazing but Derek’s hard to beat because he pulls things out the bag like falling asleep on demand! I got to work a lot with Derek this series which is just bliss.”
Any scary animal encounters this time while filming?
“So last year we had Jester the bull who was two tonnes and the size of a shed. This series we have Monty the bull who is younger and smaller but from the same lineage and the same breeders. He’s still a big dude! I had to learn how to ring his nose.
“It’s sometimes quite intimidating around the bigger animals. I had another scene where this horse had to be brought down onto its side and then rolled over as part of a procedure.
“So I was at the back end while it’s getting rotated over. It’s definitely a little bit intimidating but because the animals are trained so well so it was all fine.”
What was it like working alongside Patricia Hodge this season who has taken over the role of Mrs Pumfrey?
“Patricia is just brilliant to be around. We were all asking her questions and she was telling us stories from her career. That kind of experience that she has and wealth of knowledge, for a young actor like me coming into the business, is just priceless.
“It’s just great to have Patricia around and she makes a brilliant Mrs Pumfrey. We had a lot of fun.”
Season 2 of All Creatures Great And Small begins on Thursday, September 16 on Channel 5 at 9pm.