Wedding bells chime and animal ailments abound as MASTERPIECE presents the much-anticipated Season Three of All Creatures Great and Small. Based on the 1972 bestselling book by veterinarian James Herriot and starring an ensemble cast lead by Nicholas Ralph, the series’ first season drew more than 10 million viewers. Seven new episodes tell the story of a young Yorkshire veterinarian struggling to balance growing demands at the veterinary practice with his responsibilities as the newly wedded husband to Helen, played by Rachel Shenton. As the characters contend with triumphs and challenges and haunting memories, they follow their dreams with life-affirming kindness, humility and humor. We spoke with MASTERPIECE Executive Producer Susanne Simpson about the new season, which premieres Sunday, January 8.

Susanne Simpson
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

What makes All Creatures Great and Small so special?
It is a wonderful combination of humor and good heartedness, plus it’s a community of people who support each other. All these people have a caring nature, not only towards each other but also towards an animal community. They understand the importance of those animals to the livelihood of the people in the Yorkshire Dales. And the humor is just really a standout, the way they tease each other.

Why do you think that the series especially resonates now?
The series premiered during the COVID lockdown when we were all separated from family, friends and work. The program creates a family feeling and the viewer feels very much a part of that. It’s also very reassuring. We’re in a time of great upset—to values that we’ve been attached to and in terms of the world order. There’s something incredibly reassuring about coming back to this family and how they help each other. And in Season Three, they too come up against world problems and have to make their own important decisions. It relates very clearly to issues we’re all dealing with right now.

Was it difficult for the writers to adapt a book published in 1972 for today’s audiences?
There was an awful lot about cows in the book! So, they really had to look at creating more animal mixing and matching to give it a broader sense. The women characters weren’t very well developed in the book, so the writer Ben Vanstone made a big effort to develop the women characters and their stories.

What’s most special about Season Three?
Season Three goes deeper into the emotional lives of the characters— especially Mrs. Hall, the housekeeper, and Siegfried, the lead veterinarian— to understand who they are, what’s important to them and what’s meaningful about their lives.

Tell us about casting Nicholas Ralph as the lead—he’s a young actor who’d never worked in television before.
He was cast by Brian Percival, who was the first director of Downton Abbey, who cast all twenty-two main characters of that series. For All Creatures Great and Small, we wanted to find a young actor who could play the lead. Brian was looking at people who were graduating from acting school and knew Nicholas was the person who could carry this show.

What are the qualities that he is especially good at conveying?
He is optimistic and has an openness to people and his situation. His innocence as he entered a new place was important because the viewers are seeing this new world through his eyes. He is our guide.

Did you go to any of the filming of scenes?
No, COVID has been a problem going on-set for the last two years. The protocols are very strict, because it can so hurt a production if somebody brings in COVID. But the good news is, we’re going to keep going with this show— and there will be a Season Four.

Were there any other obstacles during production?
Cold weather has been a challenge. They start filming as early as February or March, and in The Dales, it’s still quite cold. Puffy coats everywhere.

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