Now that the first season of All Creatures Great and Small has come to a close, what should viewers expect in the already-confirmed second season? Series star Nicholas Ralph returns to the podcast for a quick look back on season one, and an exclusive preview of the season rapidly on the way!
Jace Lacob: I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to a special bonus episode of MASTERPIECE Studio.
Seven heartwarming episodes in, the “and introducing Nicholas Ralph” title credit no longer feels necessary. The All Creatures Great and Small lead has more than made his mark.
James It’s a little boy!
Anne Why isn’t he moving? Is he dead?
James I can feel a heartbeat. It’s very faint. Come on boy – let’s get some air into your lungs.
Jace Ralph’s James Herriot is a character made for audience affection — and it’s a role the Scottish actor truly owns.
James When I think about where I was less than a year ago…
Helen I can’t imagine that house without you now, it’s like you’re already part of the furniture.
James So much has happened.
Helen All of it good?
James Most of it. There’s a few things I’d change.
Jace All Creatures Great and Small’s Nicholas Ralph returns to the podcast to look back at the first season finale — and ahead to the second season of this wonderful new series.
Jace So this week we are joined again by All Creatures Great and Small star Nicholas Ralph. Welcome back.
Nicholas Hello. Thanks for having me back.
Jace James performs a miracle and saves Strawberry’s life with a radical surgery aided by Tristan. How challenging was it to film these tense sequences in episode six?
Nicholas Yeah, we we did a lot. I think that was all kind of one day, actually, and that was a really heavy day. But again, with regards to these kind of scenes. anything vet related from the start, I said I wanted to do, I want to do as much as possible, the rules for animals and entertainment has changed slightly and rightly so. But everything that I could do, I wanted to do. And those days, I think everyone there’s just a whole new focus kind of comes comes on the set, especially when the animals are on. But also with regards to this day, we knew it was a big day with a lot to get through and it was quite tense scenes and big scenes that we were doing. So a whole new focus and kind of quiet and calm comes on set, which is lovely. But yeah, I think everyone was just as everyone was really on their toes of book lines, learn everything like that. Yeah, but it was it was a fantastic day, but it was a long day. It was a great day.
Jace This is a major turning point for James. It results in James being promoted to senior vet by Siegfried.
Siegfried I wanted to say… I thought I should mention…I wasn’t completely in the right today.
Mrs. Hall As close as you’ll get to him admitting he were wrong.
Siegfried Yes this is me showing my soft underbelly, there is no need to stick the knife in. I should’ve listened to you the first time.
James It’s not the animals that cause all the bother it’s the people.
Siegfried Quite right. I’m proud of you. In anyone else’s hands that animal would’ve died. It reminded me why I do this job. And that perhaps I should recognize that other people can do it too.
James That means you Tris…
Siegfried I’m promoting you to senior vet.
Mrs. Hall Oh congratulations.
James Are you serious?
Siegfried I’ve watched you… You’ve turned into a fine practitioner. And perhaps it’s a good thing that the responsibility of the practice doesn’t rest entirely on my shoulders.
Tristan No more than you deserve, Jim.
James That’s fantastic, I mean thank you.
Siegfried Not at all.
James Will I get a pay rise?
Siegfried Absolutely not. Do you think I’m made of money?
Jace What does this moment signify for James? Has this been the culmination of six episodes?
Nicholas Yes, it’s huge for James, it’s it’s a weight off his shoulders, it’s elation. He’s gained that respect as well that he was really after. I think it means the world to James in that moment and also he’s been accepted in by this kind of surrogate family as well, of Siegfried, Mrs Hall and Tristan. So I think he just feels completely, completely comfortable, you know, and content there now. And yes, just the cherry on on the cake.
Jace James goes to the Chapman’s farm to help the dog Susie birth her litter with Helen watching on seeing James attempt to get the first puppy to breathe, how could anyone, i.e., Helen, not fall in love with him?
Nicholas Yeah, as an actor, would you read that in the script? James gives most tomorrows to the puppy. I was like, That’s great. Because it’s brilliant. But yes, it’s a wonderful moment. Yeah, I mean, you can write it’s adorable, you got to be on just say the.
Jace James and Helen find each other’s hands when they’re watching the puppies struggle to breathe. It’s a surprisingly intimate moment. How did you read this moment in the script when these two finally even chastely touch?
Helen Oh my goodness.
James Hello little fella.
Bert Hey… There you go Suzie. There’s your new little lad.
Anne Isn’t it grand?
Bert Thank you, Mister Herriot. You had our Annie right worried there.
Helen Well done.
James You too.
Nicholas Yeah, I think there’s so much going on at that moment, but it’s kind of the culmination of all these, they’re caught up in the moment as well off of urging this puppy on to breathe and to make it through, because it’s just it’s barely holding on. It really is. You know, the intent, the attention is with the puppy. And it’s quite an intense moment. She had to find each other’s hands at that moment. I think it’s it seems so natural, I think is how rich it seemed, it seemed very natural thing. And then, of course, that. That cannot play on people’s minds or not.
Nicholas Did I cheer at that moment, I did the two of them get stuck up at the farm when the fog rolls in the night ahead of Helen’s wedding. To Hugh, How does this late night between the two of them shift their relationship with that natural intimacy there?
Nicholas Yeah, I think I think you bang on natural and they feel so at ease in each other’s company and. Yeah, and and they also reveal a little bit more about each other, just talked about the relationship growing as well, and they’re finding out a little bit more about each other and how one gets to see James and more of a practical role regarding the animals and the vet side of things. But she also finds a bit more about him as a person, and his background story comes from Glasgow and vice versa. We we find it a bit more about Helen as well. So. Yes, if they fallen into this moment. Almost accidentally. And it feels like the most natural thing in the world, certainly for James. So so, yeah, see,.
Jace I might have told you, why doesn’t James follow through and admit his feelings for Helen then what’s holding him back, especially as she’s due to marry Hugh in the morning and he could lose her forever?
Nicholas Yeah, I think he’s got this constant dilemma of being the good guy, doing the right thing, and then also following through with this burning feeling of how he feels and everything. But is is this constant battle of heart overhead, you know, in his head, you know, telling him to be the good guy and his heart’s feeling something much different, so. So, yeah, this is a total moral dilemma for James.
Jace Before this next question, a brief word from our sponsors…
Jace James does get Helen to her wedding in time, and he almost makes it out of town but stops at the crossroads, what makes him go back? And how did you view that decision? Is he meaning in that moment to put a stop to the wedding?
Nicholas I don’t think so. No, I don’t think he’s you know, I don’t think it’s running back to running the doors that everyone speak speak now. I mean, I think it really is, as he kind of says to hell, and he just had a feeling that he should be the. Now, I suppose we can you can take that as read, but there must be a lot of other things. Well, for James going on, just maybe. Just maybe. Yeah, I think I think those kind of things is what’s going through his mind.
Jace I love the moment between them in the church, there isn’t this passionate, ardent declaration of love. He just talks to her like a like a friend, like a person.
Helen I thought you were going home.
James Something inside said I should be here.
Helen I told you I would make a fool of myself. Is anyone still outside?
James I am sure Tristan led everyone to the Drovers.
Helen Of course, Hugh paid the tab in advance.
James He does have an uncanny ability to sniff out a free pint.
Helen Oh James – what have I done… Hugh didn’t deserve this… how am I going to face anyone?
James You didn’t do this because you’re cruel or unkind. You did it because you’re the opposite of those things.
Helen That’s not how it feels.
James Your dad’s waiting outside with Jenny. Let’s get you home.
Jace Is this the most kind that Helen could have been calling off a wedding to a man she doesn’t love in the most kind? That James could be to reassure her at this moment and not put additional pressure on her?
Nicholas Yeah, I think so. It’s been such a journey for Helen and been with Hugh for a long time since they were younger and we’ve known each other for the majority of their lives. And so, yes, it’s a huge moment for her. But ultimately, if you don’t see a future with that person, then that it’s definitely the best thing to do anyway is to is to call off then and there rather than eke out and, you know, and end up doing it a few years down the line and kind of resenting one another. So so, yeah, it’s obviously a very tough decision for her. But the one that. Yeah, but I think that’s the right the right thing to do. Yeah.
Jace They stand in front of the altar hand in hand and then walk down the aisle together in one of the most beautiful and understated declarations of love I’ve ever seen on television. What does this mean for the two of them? Is it an admission of their feelings for each other?
Nicholas Yeah, I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I think. I think I think Helen can you know, she’s she’s well aware I could be the signals and. But as James, on the other hand, maybe, maybe less so, but he’s very smart, intelligent and compassionate guy, so he’s very perceptible as well and very perceptive, perceptive and. So I think you must have an inkling as well from to turn the car around, even if it is just blind hope and.
Jace But there’s one thing James Herriot always has its blind hope.
Nicholas Exactly. Yeah.
Jace Merry bloody Christmas. The series ends inside Skeldale House with James, Mrs. Hall and the Farnons gathered together looking very familial and cozy.
Tristan Did you see Helen?
James Her dad took her home in the truck.
Mrs. Hall Your mother weren’t too upset you’re not coming?
James I wouldn’t’ve made it ‘til evening.
Tristan So James…
Siegfried Lovely goose.
TristanI’m sorry, I can’t do this –
Mrs. Hall Tristan –
Tristan No, I can’t be the only one dying to know what on earth happened…
Siegfried There is a time and a place –
Tristan With Suzie’s puppies? What did you all think I was going to say? James?
Mrs. Hall Let’s eat and don’t be naughty.
Siegfried Before we start, I’d like to say a few words – don’t roll your eyes Tristan.
Tristan I didn’t.
Siegfried You bloody did I just saw you.
Mrs. Hall L The goose is going cold.
Siegfried It’s times like this which remind me how grateful I am for everything I have… not the practice, or the house or the beautiful countryside, or any other thing. It’s the people. Infuriating as you all are, I’m rather fond of you. And well there’s that – so well… Merry Bloody Christmas.
All Merry Bloody Christmas.
Jace What does this final scene say about the found family that James has encountered here?
Nicholas Yeah, I think he just feels incredibly comfortable. Is fully supported with professionally and personally as well. Siegfried’s there. He is his mentor, almost a father figure. Mrs. Hull, the mother of the house, looking after all the boys, looking out for James certainly throughout the series and the interest in this as best buddy as his brother, helping him out with the more worldly things are in it. He notices when he’s down, so he helps him out then. Yeah, it’s a good read on James as well, and I think. Yeah, he just feels completely comfortable and at ease, and if he’s going to spend Christmas somewhere, ultimately, deep down, I think he’s more than happy to have spent it there.
Jace His poor mum, though, waiting for him. But that’s another story. Rather excitingly, we’ve got a second series of All Creatures on tap. Congratulations, and hopefully many, many more to come. What do you hope viewers get to see in the second series of All Creatures?
Nicholas Thank you so much. We’re so excited, so absolutely excited. Well, a bit more of the same wonderful animals, wonderful scenery, and hopefully we’ll shoot a little earlier in the year. So we will get some some nice sunny weather as well. See it. Its full glory and full beauty. The oxtails and. Yes, very difficult. All the different animals and then, yeah, just hopefully we find out, we just see these characters grow and these relationships strengthened, we find out a little bit more of the backstory of other ones. And, um, and I hope for James that he really, finds what he’s looking for.
Jace You mentioned the sense of community earlier at a time when we’re all social distancing due to covid, do you see All Creatures Great and Small as a love letter to the spirit of community that perhaps we’re missing that sense of connection and interconnectivity that we’re missing from society right now?
Nicholas Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I’m not massive on social media and things like that, but things like that, but you’re always connected, are you really when you’re not seeing people face to face and that human connection? Yes. It’s harking back to a simpler time, helping out your neighbor community spirit and. Yeah, which which I think we all love. And also, the other thing about the show, which people have said is that I can’t remember the last time the whole family wanted to sit in and watch a program all together, the ages throughout the ages. And that’s something that we’re really proud about as well, because I just think that’s absolutely wonderful. And not only not only was the whole family sitting in, but a lot of people over social media messaged me pictures of their family pets, also watching the show, their dogs and cats sitting. And so it really is for all the family, including family pets. it’s definitely about about that about that community spirit and community feel.
Jace All Creatures Great and Small has been a huge out of the gate smash hit for Channel Five in Britain. What do you make of the rabid love for this show? And was that reaction expected?
Nicholas Yeah, well, it’s just a wonderful reaction, so many lovely, lovely comments across the board from people and in prayers and things like that. It’s been amazing, really has. It certainly took me a couple of days to get my head around after the first few episodes went out, for sure. I think during filming we all had a lot of faith in the show and what we were doing, and we were all really excited about it. But ultimately, you never know which way it’s going to go. So it really did. You know, the sheer volume, as you say, of of lovely messages and and things were there and viewers was a lovely surprise. Yeah.
Jace So this is your first on screen role. You’re the lead of All Creatures Great and Small. Who whose career would you most like to emulate at this point?
Nicholas Oh, that’s a really good question. Um. My favorite actors, the likes of Gary Oldman and James McAvoy, you know, people like that, they work seamlessly, it seems, between film and. And the stage film, TV and the stage, and I would love a career like that that can I can do all I see right now, I’m absolutely loving doing screen. This is my first venture into it. So I’m absolutely loving it. And all the actors I really love and respect, that’s the kind of careers that they have. And I came from the theater. I love the theater as well. So I see a healthy dose of both of them all. I think.
Jace Obviously you learn a lot from your costars. There’s one costar, I feel like, who has remained unsung in this interview, and that would be Gorgeous George, who plays just the dog. What how amazing is the bond between you in this animal? I love the fact that Mrs. Hall claims that just doesn’t like most men, but she instantly has approval for her James Herriot, which I think is sort of a seal of approval. What can you tell us about Gorgeous George?
Nicholas Well, Gorgeous George, what an absolute darling, loveliest dog. First person I say hi to every morning, Gorgeous George on set he’s the happiest laddy. He’s brilliant. He’s just got this lovely to work with. Although I did have I had to get Gorgeous George to come. It was only about 10 yards and I had to just call George, Jess, over. And the first time that he came, he went round me to the right. So was OK because the trainer was standing behind me. So the second time he went round to the left to say, OK, I’m going to get you this time. So I lined up. He was coming right for me and he went straight to my legs. So ultimately and then the show, working with horses, cows, these big intimidating animals, birthing calves. And the hardest thing was to get a dog to come 10 yards to me, so. So, yeah, apart from that brilliant to work with.
Jace Nicholas, Ralph, thank you so very much.
Nicholas Thank you very much. Cheers.
Jace Coming up next: 50 years of television magic.
Rebecca Eaton Alistair Cooke thought it was so bad that he thought there would never be a second season of Masterpiece. He thought it was a dud.
NancyWest the script was a bit of a mess. There were too many figures, too many people named Thomas. The wigs all looked identical.
Rebecca Eaton There is more hair in this show than in anything we’ve ever done since they were, you know, tremendous. Everybody had wigs. The men and the women.
Jace Making MASTERPIECE, a three-part documentary podcast, appears here in this podcast feed on February 28, March 7, and March 14. Stay tuned, and don’t miss this comprehensive look at all 50 years of MASTERPIECE history — with exclusive interviews from the peerless personalities who have made MASTERPIECE — and Masterpiece Theatre — such a remarkable television feast.
MASTERPIECE Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob, and produced by Nick Andersen. Elisheba Ittoop is our editor. The executive producer of Susanne Simpson.
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