Anna Madeley interview: ‘All Creatures’ star on wartime for Mrs Hall in new season

All Creatures Great and Small is back this autumn!

Based on the much-loved collection of stories by author James Herriot, Channel 5’s hit period drama follows the heartwarming and humorous adventures of a young country vet in the Yorkshire Dales.

As we return to Skeldale House in the spring of 1940, there’s change on the horizon for everyone.

Watch the trailer here:

Season 4 premieres in the UK at 9pm on Thursday 5 October on Channel 5, with six brand new episodes airing weekly.

All Creatures Great and Small returns in the US early next year on PBS Masterpiece.

American viewers can catch up on the first three seasons with this free 7-day trial of the PBS Masterpiece channel on Amazon Prime!

Here, actress Anna Madeley chats about what’s coming up for her character Mrs Hall, the friendship with Helen, romance with Gerald, the show’s sense of community, and working with her co-star on a new period drama podcast:


So where do we find Mrs Hall at the start of this season?

“We find her jogging along quite nicely. She’s seems in quite a good place, given everything going on.

“Gerald is around, and they’re good friends – he will go up to the allotment and bring her bags of potatoes.

“She’s missing Edward while he is at war, but they’re writing to each other. It’s a busy time, but also that strange time at the beginning of the war where other than some young men being away, life is reasonably the same.

“It’s not changed a huge amount for them where they are in Yorkshire. It’s small changes you’re starting to see. You know, the breakfasts aren’t quite as big as they have been, things like that. Little things start to show.”


How is Mrs Hall coping with rationing and running Skeldale during the war?

“I think at the beginning of this series it’s not a huge issue for them.

“It’s a period where Mrs Hall is just starting to experiment a little bit, there’s lots of ideas beginning to circulate; different ways you can make things that don’t include as much sugar or butter. Some of them go well, and some of them less well.

“Because of where they are, they have chickens out the back, so they have a supply of eggs. In a way, they are probably better off than some people who may live in the cities.

“We see them cutting back on certain things and looking at recipes where you can do things like stuff your jacket potato with your sausages and re-using the oil from the meat.

“It’s funny because we look back on it now and think, gosh, how would you do that?

“Not wasting much is something I imagine they were probably quite mindful of anyway. It’s maybe something already in place, but possibly with less cakes and biscuits, except for the odd special occasion.”


How much is Mrs Hall missing Tristan?

“Oh, I think she’s missing Tristan a lot. She misses his natural mischief and his constant dilemmas in life – that leaves a big hole.

“I think she’s the one that makes sure there’s parcels and letters going out to him and hopes that he will take the time to send letters back. She probably tells him off if he doesn’t.

“I think she’s the one in the household that will talk about it and suggest to Mr Farnon that he might be missing him, however much he might not want to admit it. She doesn’t like the elephant in the room.

“I don’t think they sit and talk about it for great lengths of time, but I think just acknowledging it helps. It’s something that’s happening to all the households gradually in their community, so they’re not alone with it.

“It’s reassuring to get letters back. It’s the same for her with Edward as he is away as well. It’s awful but everyone’s going through something similar, which in a weird way helps everyone to get on and cope with it.

“They all understand one another. I think there’s a definite way of keeping cheerful but not wanting to ignore the fact that there’s a gap. There’s still a place at the table that’s empty now.

“The sense of community in this series is lovely. Mrs Pumphrey throws a big party and Mrs Hall takes a cake. That sense that they are all going through something together is so important in this series.

“Households are missing their young men, we see it with the farming community as well at various points this series, and the fact they don’t have the young men there to help with the work in the same way.”


Do you think Tristan’s absence makes her think of Edward even more?

“I think it’s a funny one with Edward because they hadn’t been in touch for such a long time and he didn’t live locally. She’s probably got more communication with him now than she has had for the last few years.

“It’s a strange contradiction happening in that relationship where they’re writing to one another and sharing their lives more than they have done previously. Although there’s the fear around the fact he is away at war, in terms of their relationship, I think it’s probably getting closer.

“I think with Tristan it’s probably the other way around. She misses him completely because he was part of her everyday life, and she was part of his.

“I don’t know how good Tristan would be at writing letters. Would he put it all in his letters? His letters to Mrs Hall might be different to what he sends Mr Farnon.”


And how does Mrs Hall react to Miss Harbottle coming to Skeldale to help round the house?

“She’s a little surprised. I think somewhere deep-down Mrs Hall knows she must ride this one out. She knows they need some help, and they could always do with some help being organised, but the idea that someone might actually manage to achieve that…she is unsure.

“Initially, she accepts it and thinks it could be a good thing, and with the prospect of James possibly going off to war then all help would be gratefully accepted.

“But I think after Miss Harbottle starts to put her fingers in pies that she might not be invited to, things start to get a little bit trickier…then Mrs Hall comes into the fore again.”


And you also have Carmody arrive this season… how does she react to him?

“I think its good news having Carmody arrive, because even though he’s young and relatively inexperienced, it’s another pair of hands helping with the vets, which is the most important thing. I think she’s surprised by him a bit.

“He’s very young. It’s not obvious how to get on with him. He seems very sweet, but quite self-sufficient. I think Mrs Hall sees it as a bit of a challenge to make him feel at home.

“Especially because they’ve got this awkward situation where he can’t stay in the house. He’s staying elsewhere. I think for Mrs Hall, it would be much easier if he was in the house, and she could welcome him in that way.

“He’s a personality that Mrs Hall hasn’t encountered before so she’s just going to bake him biscuits until he realises he’s part of the household.”


And how is everything going with Gerald?

“Very happy. I think it’s not clear exactly what their relationship is, but that’s fine. And I think they just get along really well and have a lovely time with one another.

“They’re a little ray of sunshine in each other’s lives. They’re in a very happy place and they share values.

“I think after all the excitement of the previous Christmas, it’s lovely that he’s stayed and hasn’t moved away, and especially at that time when everything is a little uncertain it’s lovely to have a friend there who’s stayed around.”


Helen and Mrs Hall’s relationship has really grown this season – can you tell us a little bit more about their bond?

“Helen and Mrs Hall are really getting on well this series, and she is settling in.

“Mrs Hall is sort of having her cake and eating it. She gets Helen to live in the household, and she still gets to be the one that does all the cooking and other jobs that she likes to do, she won’t let Helen go near the laundry.

“They have an interesting relationship, because they are two women who run households who, in their own ways have brought up young people.

“There’s a lot of crossovers in experience between them. Although there’s a generational difference, so occasionally, there’s a slight mother daughter flavour to their relationship. But then other times, it’s just two women.

“Because they’re not actually family, I think it gives them a freedom, and it’s this friendship that really blossoms over this series. They support one another quite a lot in in the dilemmas that are going on.

“There’s a lot going on in terms of whether James will stay and what the future is for Helen. There’s an interesting parallel that Mrs Hall was married just before the last war broke out and found herself home alone, not knowing if her husband would come back.

“She can relate very well to how Helen’s just starting married life with James, and she’s faced with the prospect of him going off to war.

“I think they, again, don’t have to speak about it unnecessarily – there’s an understanding that they can share thoughts about that, of what that’s like which is really helpful and important.

“Mrs Hall and Mr Farnon have some experience of war that the younger generation don’t have. There’s a little layer of experience that’s there throughout this series in terms of how everyone’s responding to what’s happening.”


You have some interesting animals in Skeldale this year?

“Yes we have goats! Trying to round them up is quite hard. Because in our lovely set you can go in many different directions.

“Keeping control of that was quite hard – they’re very good at scuttling around and an animal’s desire to find food is a very strong. That was a good giggle.

“The dogs who play Jess and Dash have really both matured this year and they’ve been really lovely, although they do still have their moments.

“We filmed a scene where Mrs Hall’s cooking meat for dinner and she manages to get those dogs out of the room. It was just a lot of fun seeing the dogs with the prospect of getting their paws on some meaty bones.

“We had to keep them at bay. They have really honed the skill of getting a biscuit off the table!”


You are working on a new period drama podcast with Helen actress Rachel Shenton, how has that been?

“It was great. It was really fun. Rachel’s written a podcast drama, The Gladstone Girls.

“It’s a six-episode story about the women at the potteries in Stoke, which is where Rachel’s from, and a lot of her family worked in the potteries so it’s taken from true stories. She interviewed lots of women.

“My character is based on Rachel’s grandma. I was very touched to be asked, and it was a lot of fun. Rachel’s a brilliant writer. The characters are fantastic. It’s a really good story.

“It was a lovely challenge as well because when doing Mrs. Hall, I have the Yorkshire accent and doing this job I have a Stoke accent, which is really hard. But it was a lot of fun to work on.

“It was nice to do something together outside of the All Creatures world as well.”


All Creatures Great and Small is available to watch on PBS Masterpiece via Amazon Prime with a free 7-day trial.