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P
Pa
December 4, 2020

‘For about 80pc of the episode, I’m dressed as a Christmas elf’

Sports

P
Pa
December 4, 2020

With the festive season upon us and present wrapping well and truly under way, the cast and crew of All Creatures Great And Small might just be serving up the greatest gift of all. Returning to Channel 5 as a one-off Christmas special, the Yorkshire-based veterinary drama is set to include some of the show’s best-loved characters, animals and storylines — all with a sprinkling of seasonal cheer.

“It was quite funny when we filmed it because we had just had real Christmas and then we went back up to Yorkshire to film Christmas for this year’s episode,” recounts actress Anna Madeley, 44, who plays Mrs Hall in the series. “There were more roast potatoes; it was lovely. And when the light changes and you get that low winter sun, it’s really beautiful, so that was all good timing for filming a Christmas episode.”

As it has for many of us, 2020 has been a year filled with extreme highs and lows for the cast and crew of the Yorkshire drama. With the majority of filming for both series one and the Christmas special taking place at the start of the year, the production was able to dodge the majority of filming restrictions imposed by Covid-19.

And while news that the drama had been renewed for a second series was music to the ears of both actors and fans alike, there was sadness in September when Dame Diana Rigg died at the age of 82.

Known for her starring roles in dramas including Bleak House, Game Of Thrones and Victoria, Rigg played the role of Mrs Pumphrey in series one of the rural veterinary series, introducing a distinctive air of grace and professionalism to the production.

“Experiencing her company on set … it’s like the golden age of cinema,” remarks fellow actor, Callum Woodhouse, 26, who plays Tristan Farnon in the series. “After we’d finished a take, she’d be like, ‘Yep, that’s the one’, and then we’d all go for a cup of tea.

“It was so nice to see someone so assured and get to be around someone with that much confidence and it naturally oozed into you in a scene. You’d feel confident working with her because she was so sure of herself. She was so sure of what me and Nick [Ralph] were doing as actors, she was very supportive.”

Despite the absence of Rigg, the forthcoming Christmas instalment does see favourites including Siegfried Farnon, Tristan Farnon and James Herriot return alongside Mrs Hall, for what is very much a continuation of the first series.

“I wouldn’t say there are a lot of loose ends tied up but, actually, that would be a complete lie,” chuckles Madeley in amusement. I mean, there’s the illusion of a lot of loose ends being tied up but actually they leave it wide, wide open for series two and what could happen there. There’s all lovely things to look forward to.”

Best known for her roles in The Crown and Mr Selfridge, Madeley’s character, Mrs Hall, acts as the ingredient that binds Skeldale House together. “I think she’s described as this figure of grim benevolence who opens the door and has this pack of dogs around her; and so we departed from that a little bit,” laughs Madeley.

“I think Ben Vanstone wrote these really great scripts. “In terms of the Christmas episode, Mrs Hall’s very excited that Helen’s getting married. She’s thrilled because, finally, for those who have watched the series, her son Edward — who she’s had a strange relationship with — is coming to their Christmas party.

“And, as per usual, she’s cooking an immense amount of colourful food, decorated the house to within an inch of its life — it’s amazing.”

Madeley wasn’t alone in getting into the festive spirit. Co-star Callum Woodhouse, best known for his roles in Cold Feet and ITV drama The Durrells — found himself propelled into a prolonged Christmas period, complete with seasonal costume for good measure.

“We were in Christmas mode a month before Christmas actually properly happened, so we had two whole months of it,” says Woodhouse with a smirk. “One thing about the Christmas special is that, for about 80 per cent of the episode, I’m dressed as a Christmas elf.”

“I spent a solid two or three weeks just dressed in this ridiculous costume. Every time I walked on to set, everybody’s first reaction was a giggle or a snigger or something.” As for any additional treats in store for viewers as part of the one-off special, Woodhouse is careful not to give too much away.

“There’s an amazing moment between Mrs Hall and Siegfried — which when I said that I was in absolute bits watching it. I was absolutely sobbing, I had to pause it. “It’s a jam-packed episode. It’s longer as well than the usual one — an extra 10 minutes — as we filmed so much and they wanted to put it all in.” The one-off All Creatures Great And Small special episode will air at 9pm on Christmas Eve on Channel 5.