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Highland actor to star in reboot of classic TV drama All Creatures Great and Small


By Margaret Chrystall

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Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot.
Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot.

An actor from Nairn may be just days away from becoming a household name as he is set to star in a new version of an old TV favourite.

Nicholas Ralph will star in the reboot of TV series All Creatures Great and Small.

The 30-year-old plays Scottish vet James Herriot who is taking his first job in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1930s.

Screened on Channel 5 at 9pm from next Tuesday, the series will also be shown in the US on the Masterpiece channel on PBS in January.

“There are quite a lot of people excited about it here, and over in the States as well, which is really cool,” said Mr Ralph, whose ambitions to act began in youth groups at Eden Court in Inverness.

Nicholas Ralph with Rachel Shenton as local farmer's daughter Helen Alderson.
Nicholas Ralph with Rachel Shenton as local farmer's daughter Helen Alderson.

Luckily, Mr Ralph is happy to ignore the usual advice given to actors about not working with animals.

He embraced the opportunity, including close encounters with a huge bull called Clive.

“His real name was Jester and he was just the softest and loveliest animal to work with – and thankfully too because he’s the size of a shed,” he said.

“I loved working with the animals. From day one it put us all at ease to see how well trained they were.

“We joked that the only time we ever finished on time on set was when there were animals present and they were more reliable than the humans.”

Nicholas Ralph (middle left) with Samuel West (top left) as Siegfried, Callum Woodhouse as Tristan and Anna Madeley as their housekeeper Mrs Hall.
Nicholas Ralph (middle left) with Samuel West (top left) as Siegfried, Callum Woodhouse as Tristan and Anna Madeley as their housekeeper Mrs Hall.

Mr Ralph – who played for Ross County and later Nairn County as a youngster – is thrilled to be working with actors such as Samuel West, who plays James’s eccentric boss Siegfried Farnon, and acting legends Dame Diana Rigg and Nigel Havers.

“There’s no better way as an actor to learn than through experience and also just being on set with these people and watching them work,” he said.

He is apparently equally as thrilled that he managed to dodge one of the messy clichés of the original series.

Actor Christopher Timothy, who played Scottish vet James Herriot in the classic series, often had his arm deep inside the back end of a cow.

But Mr Raplh said: “The rules of working with animals in entertainment changed for the first time in 75 years the year before we started filming.

“So procedurally you can’t do anything to an animal that it doesn’t require, or that you are not trained to do.

“So with regard to the hand up the backside – I avoided that. I got away with that one!” he laughed.

Dame Diana Rigg also appears in the series as Mrs Pumphrey.
Dame Diana Rigg also appears in the series as Mrs Pumphrey.

Currently out in Bulgaria working on Lionsgate film The Devil’s Light, a psychological thriller, he is playing a trainee priest at a school for exorcists.

But with filming only due to end on Tuesday, it may spoil plans for where Mr Ralph had hoped to watch his TV debut.

“I would go home and watch it with my family in Nairn, but I have to quarantine for 14 days, so I’ll probably end up watching with my flatmates in Glasgow,” he said.

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