Fans of Channel 5’s All Creatures Great and Small know Rachel Shenton as farmer ‘Helen Alderson’. Learn more about her life and career before joining the hit series.
Since September 2020, Rachel Shenton has appeared as ‘Helen Alderson’ on All Creatures Great and Small. Airing on Channel 5, this is the second television adaptation of Alf Wight’s books of the same name. In the 1978-1990 BBC series, Shenton’s character Helen was played by both Carol Drinkwater and Lynda Bellingham.
In the 2020 show, Helen is a farmer’s daughter living in fictitious Darrowby, Yorkshire in the late 1930s.
Having lost her mother at a young age, she lives with her father Richard (Tony Pitts) and younger sister Jenny (Imogen Clawson) on their modest farm land.
Although engaged to wealthy landowner Hugh Hulton (Harry Potter‘s Matthew Lewis), she develops an attraction to the lead character, new vet James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph).
After a successful first season and Christmas special, Shenton returned in 2021 for Season 2. The sophomore run concluded on October 21st after six episodes. Another Christmas special will soon follow later in the year.
Playing Helen on All Creatures Great and Small has given Shenton wide exposure. However, it’s far from her first major project. In fact, she has already conquered the worlds of soap operas and US network television.
This is in addition to having an Academy Award under her belt! More on that later…
Before All Creatures Great and Small: Hollyoaks (2010-2013) and Switched at Birth (2014-2017)
Shenton’s first big television role was on Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks. She played aspiring glamour model ‘Mitzee Minniver’, sister to Nikki Sanderson’s Maxine.
She joined the long-running show in 2010, a decade before starting on All Creatures Great and Small. After three years, Shenton departed Hollyoaks in February 2013, with Mitzee emigrating to the United States.
Although Shenton left Hollyoaks and Mitzee behind, she ended up mirroring her former character. Shenton herself moved to the United States and landed a role on Switched at Birth.
Shenton joined the hit ABC Family drama in the third season. The show’s cast included Back to the Future actress Lea Thompson as Kathryn Kennish. Meanwhile, Vanessa Marano, Katie Leclerc, DW Moffett and Constance Marie were also featured.
On the show, the actress played ‘Lily Summers’, an English-born student teacher. After her arrival, Lily develops a relationship with Toby Kennish (Lucas Grabeel) and later gives birth to his baby. Ultimately, the characters marry. In the process, Lily becomes Lily Summers-Kennish and a member of the show’s central family.
Academy Award success: The Silent Child (2017)
Following Switched at Birth, Shenton wrote and starred in the short film The Silent Child. Her now-husband, actor and filmmaker Chris Overton directed the project.
Based on Shenton’s own experiences, the plot focused on Libby (Maisie Sly), a profoundly deaf 4-year-old girl. Shenton portrayed ‘Joanne’, the Libby character’s social worker. In real life, Shenton had grown up with a profoundly deaf parent.
Following the film’s release in 2017, it went on to win Best Live Action Short Film at the 90th Academy Awards.
In 2019, Shenton appeared in White Gold Season 2, airing on BBC Two and Netflix. She played the role of Jo Scott, a motivational spokeswoman turned head saleswoman.
All Creatures Great and Small has already been confirmed to return for a third season. It will presumably air sometime in late 2022.