When All Creatures Great and Small premiered in the United States on PBS Masterpiece, the remake of the popular 1970s program was an overnight hit with viewers in January 2020. The drama follows the adventures of newly qualified veterinarian James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) during the 1930s in the Yorkshire Dales of England. Housekeeper Mrs. Hall, played by Anna Madeley (Mr. Selfridge, Deadwater Fell), runs the very efficient Skeldale House, where Herriot resides and practices.
The remake is noteworthy because it dedicates a lot of time to all of the characters’ backstories. Mrs. Hall’s character was expanded to a great degree, a point that many fans – both new and old – enjoyed. Season two is well underway, after its premiere on January 9, continuing to explore aspects of Mrs. Hall’s incredible journey.
Madeley gives a remarkable performance in her role. She brings an extensive portfolio of acting experience, including her three seasons with the highly acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company, three appearances in off-West End productions, and roles on numerous hit television series. Madeley shared her thoughts with me about what a joy it’s been to be back with All Creatures Great and Small.
What’s your favorite animal and why?
I’ve always liked a lion. I think when I was young, I thought they were cuddly and furry because my Mum had knitted me a lion teddy. I still love them now but am obviously rather more aware of them not being cuddly!
Being on the Set
Thinking back to your training or earlier projects, did anyone give you a piece of advice that’s been very useful in All Creatures?
Don’t work with animals! Well, no seriously, that’s a hard question because there is so much I’ve learnt over the years. I suppose one skill required to play Mrs. Hall is to be very organized with props. There is a lot of work, in the kitchen particularly, with plates, pots, the oven, etc. So I have to be very careful with my time. We work fast and I have to make sure that I know exactly what I am doing, and when, so that when we shoot I have the freedom to play the scene and not be distracted by props.
Who do you most enjoy giving pep talks to: Siegfried (Samuel West), Tristan (Callum Woodhouse), or James?
Oh, Siegfried, definitely. He and Mrs. Hall are a good match for each other.
New Horizons for Mrs. Hall in Season Two
We see Mrs. Hall continue to help everyone with their problems, but what do you admire about how she faces her own challenges?
I think she is someone who is rather brave. She’s left a destructive relationship, which is extremely hard to do, and she’s carved out a new life for herself. It’s cost her to do that and she is still trying to reach out, heal and find a way forward. She has the wisdom though to know that she can’t do it on her own and she has to be patient and hope that her family will ultimately join her in moving forwards, albeit in a different way to the original plan.
What was it like collaborating with new cast member Will Thorp to explore Mrs. Hall’s encounters with Mr. Hammond?
Will, and Gerald, are both wonderful! Will brought such a gorgeous character to Skeldale. Such a kind, thoughtful and fun man. He surprises Mrs. Hall and opens up a side to herself she had neglected for some time. It’s lovely for her to have a friend with whom she can share thoughts of WWI, who understands the experience of her generation and gives her another perspective on it, too.
Was there a season two scene that you were particularly looking forward to filming once you read the script?
It was a real treat to take the dogs for a walk! Mrs. Hall spends a huge amount of time in the house working and so it was a rare trip out. It was a beautiful day up on the hills in Skipton with Gerald, looking down at the canal boats chugging by and being pulled up and down the hill by Jess the dog, played by our very enthusiastic Ernie! Bliss.
Who is Siegfried Going to Choose?
Are you allowed to say if you’re on Team Dorothy or Team Diana?
Tricky one. Well, Dorothy is an old friend and Diana a new one. But in terms of their relationship[s] to Siegfried … I’m not sure he’s quite ready for either of them!
For more information, watch this video ‘All Hail Mrs. Hall’ and visit the PBS Masterpiece website.