Young James Herriot ventured from Scotland to England’s Yorkshire Dales in 1937 to begin his veterinary career in the first season of All creatures big and small. And Nicholas Ralph, an actor who brings charm, warmth, and humor to a role, is conceivable. He was only two years out of drama school when he landed his first TV role in this winning remake of a book by real-life animal doctor Alf Wight, who wrote under the pseudonym James Herriot.
Ralph, who grew up in the Scottish Highlands before studying at the Royal Scottish Conservatory, says: “I can still cringe when I think about it. “From the very beginning, all the right people were in the right place. And we had a good time filming. The reception was wonderful. ”
The Masterpiece the series was a huge hit with both audiences and critics when it premiered in the US on PBS in January 2021. At a time when people were spending many hours at home, the series took viewers on a journey leisurely to the verdant hills of northern England, when the locals needed the animals not only for company but also for their livelihood.
James has just been promoted to a more confident doctor as All creatures returns January 9 for another seven episodes. But he is pulled in opposite directions – by his parents, who want him to accept an offer to work at a state-of-the-art practice in Glasgow, and a farmer’s daughter Helen (Rachel Shenton), the young woman he fell in love with. In the final episode, she didn’t make it through her Christmas wedding. As Season 2 unfolds, James and Helen reconnect shortly after Easter.
Ralph spoke to TV Insider about his breakout role, filming the new season, and working with those amazing animals.
How does it feel to be back for the second season? Is there pressure to repeat the magic of the first time?
Nicholas Ralph: I think you always have that pressure. What do they say about the band? The curse of the second album. But I can’t wait to get back there and rejoin the gang. And we were out of lockdown, so the first time we were up there, we were in a room for rehearsal and maybe 15 people. It was the first time I was in a room with more than one other person – my roommate – in months.
This time you do most of the shoot in spring and summer instead of fall and winter. Does that make a difference?
It’s really funny. The weather in the spring is a lot harsher than what we were used to when we were filming Season 1. It was like minus 4. [Celsius] when I wake up at five o’clock in the morning. And we had snow. Last time we had no snow. There are also many challenges because of COVID. The marquees we were going to be sitting in a position where we couldn’t have a wall on it, so it was very cold during some of those filming sessions.
James and Helen’s relationship finally seems to have begun when Season 2 begins.
They are moving gently towards each other and examining the water. It was a huge thing for Helen to have not been through the wedding. Also, I think when you don’t see someone for a while, someone you have a deep relationship with, it’s also pretty painful. He’s quite shocked when he sees her at first, and then they just get to know each other.
There was also this pull from his parents and from a job offer in Glasgow.
You see that kind of drag throughout the season. James loves his parents, they put him through vet school. He feels a responsibility to help them when they are in trouble. Then on the opposite side, he falls in love with Dales, he feels part of a community, and also has a girl that he quite likes.
How are animals born in this season handled? Did the crew again shoot a real birth and then edit it with your shot with a prosthetic leg?
Yes, it’s a mix of real and fake backs. When [lamb] was born in Volume 1, the hand that actually gave birth to the animal is [veterinary adviser] By Andy Barrett. The rest is me.
How physically demanding is working with so many large pets?
It is definitely physically demanding. Also, you have to be on tiptoe. If you are lying on the back of a horse and it starts to move or kick, you need to stay away. These animals are very pleasant to look at from the front, but 90% of the time I am in the back. [Laughs] But it’s unbelievable what the trainers let the animals do, so you feel safe.
Even with cats? Is the white cat you made in the first episode directional?
The cat’s name is Stuart. He plays along sometimes and sometimes he doesn’t. But you watch that scene and you won’t know what’s different.
Do you have a favorite quadruple cost?
Clumsy. He appeared in Episode 1, great acting by [cocker spaniel] Bobby. I think she was 8 months old when we were filming, very cute. Derek, who plays Tricki, was always there, but little Scruff just stole my heart this season.
How has your world changed since being selected to participate in the program? How does popularity treat you?
So great. I went to Bulgaria to make a movie called The Devil’s Light, a horror film by Lionsgate. That comes from the back side of All creatures. Then I got a job playing young CS Lewis [in the film The Most Reluctant Convert] because the director’s wife saw me in All creatures. So it had a really positive effect on my career. And you come across a weirdo on the street who will stop you and say, “I really enjoyed the show,” and that’s adorable.
All creatures big and small, Season 2 Premieres, Sunday, Jan. 9, Aug. 9, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)
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