A new adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small has been airing since September 2020 on Channel 5 in the UK. The series is inspired by the stories of author/veterinary surgeon Alf Wight (under the pen name of James Herriot, the title character) as well as the earlier BBC television series (1978-1990) starring Christopher Timothy, Robert Hardy and Peter Davison.
Alf Wight’s first book, If Only They Could They Could Talk, was published in 1970. Now, 5 decades later, Wight’s stories (told through the eyes of veterinary surgeon James Herriot) are still being told, most recently with a new All Creatures Great and Small series airing on Channel 5 in the UK. New actors are filling the classic roles played by such names as Robert Hardy, Christopher Timothy, Peter Davison and Lynda Bellingham, among others.
So, who is bringing James Herriot and the residents of Darrowby life for 21st century viewers? Let’s meet the cast of 2020 All Creatures Great and Small.
Nicholas Ralph (James Herriot)
Scottish-born actor Nicholas Ralph takes on the leading role of James Herriot for the new series. Contrary to Christopher Timothy’s earlier portrayal in the BBC television series, Ralph plays the character in his native accent.
The actor hails from Nairn – a market town in the Highland area of Scotland. Interestingly, Ralph was born in 1990, the same year that his show’s predecessor came to an end. According to his IMDB, All Creatures Great and Small is Ralph’s onscreen debut and he will be appearing in the upcoming horror film The Devil’s Light, which features Chariots of Fire star Ben Cross in a posthumous performance. Prior to landing the role of James Herriot, Ralph had studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and graduated in 2017.
Samuel West (Siegfried Farnon)
Stepping into Robert Hardy’s shoes as Siegfried Farnon is no small feat. However, Samuel West seems to have risen to the challenge. Acting is quite literally in West’s DNA – his mother is Prunella Scales (Sybil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers). Meanwhile, West’s father is none other than Timothy West, who has recently appeared in soap operas such as Coronation Street and EastEnders.
Prior to landing his role on All Creatures Great and Small, some of West’s earlier television credits include Westworld, Death in Paradise, The Crown, Mr Selfridge and Midsomer Murders. On the film side, he had a supporting role as Sir Anthony Eden in Darkest Hour, opposite Gary Oldman in an Academy Award winning performance as Winston Churchill.
Callum Woodhouse (Tristan Farnon)
Callum Woodhouse is no stranger to animal based period television series set during the 1930s. Before the young actor succeeded Peter Davison as Tristan Farnon on All Creatures Great and Small, Woodhouse appeared in all 4 series of The Durrells on ITV. That show told the story of naturalist and conservationist Gerald Durrell growing up on the island of Corfu. Woodhouse played Leslie, one of Gerald’s older brothers.
As per Woodhouse’s IMDB, he appeared in 3 episodes of Cold Feet between 2016-19 and had a one episode appearance in the BBC One detective period drama series, Father Brown.
Rachel Shenton (Helen Alderson)
Rachel Shenton plays farmer’s daughter Helen Alderson, who is James Herriot’s love interest. However, the actress is arguably one of the more recognisable cast members in real life. In 2018, she won an Academy Award for her work on The Silent Child, a sign language based short film which was written by Shenton’s husband, Chris Overton.
Between 2014-2017, Shenton appeared in multiple episodes of American television series Switched At Birth, airing on Freeform. She played schoolteacher Lily Summers, who later marries Toby Kennish, one of the show’s main characters. Earlier in her career, Shenton also appeared in soap opera Hollyoaks, playing Anne “Mitzeee” Minniver for 3 years between 2010-2013.
Anna Madeley (Mrs Hall)
Anna Madeley plays Mrs Hall, the housekeeper of Skeldale House which is where James, Siegfried and Tristan reside. This character was originally played by Mary Hignett between 1978-1980 in the first run of BBC’s All Creatures Great and Small.
Some of Madeley’s other projects include The Crown, Patrick Melrose, Deadwater Fell, Mr Selfridge and Secret State. The actress has also appeared in films such as Brideshead Revisited and A Fantastic Fear of Everything.
Matthew Lewis (Hugh Hulton)
Matthew Lewis is of course best known for playing Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films. However, Lewis has also expanded into other work outside of the Wizarding World. For example, in All Creatures Great and Small, Lewis plays wealthy landowner Hugh Hulton, who is a rival of James Herriot’s – a far cry from down-to-earth Neville.
Some of Lewis’ other post-Potter works include the television series Bluestone 42, Ripper Street, Girlfriends and The Syndicate. Furthermore, Lewis has starred in other movies, such as Me Before You and Terminal.
Diana Rigg (Mrs Pumphrey)
Legendary actress Dame Diana Rigg – known best for her roles in The Avengers (no, not the Marvel films) and Game of Thrones, died on September 10 – shortly before the release of the third episode of All Creatures Great and Small. In one of her final roles, Rigg played the wealthy and whimsically oblivious Mrs. Pumphrey, with the fourth episode being dedicated to her memory.
Between The Avengers, Game of Thrones and All Creatures Great and Small, Rigg showed remarkable versatility in her career. Some of her other projects across the actress’ 6-decade career include James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Evil Under the Sun and 1980s Muppet film The Great Muppet Caper. In 2013, Rigg also appeared in Doctor Who.
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