‘All Creatures’ interview: Rachel Shenton on what’s ahead for Helen in Season 3

All Creatures Great and Small is back!

Based on author James Herriot’s much-loved collection of stories, Channel 5’s period drama follows the heartwarming and humorous adventures of a young country vet in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1930s.

Three months on from the end of the last season, it’s now spring 1939 as the hit series returns for its third run.

Some big changes are happening at Skeldale and everyone has to learn how to adjust. Tristan is now a qualified vet while James enters into a new stage of his life with Helen and at the practice.

After being made joint business partner by Siegfried, James pushes to take on more responsibility via the Ministry of Agriculture’s new bovine TB testing scheme, but its unexpected challenges risk pushing him to breaking point.

And as a potential Second World War looms, all of our Skeldale family have to consider their purpose in Darrowby and beyond.

Watch the trailer:


Season 3 is currently airing in the UK at 9pm on Thursday nights on Channel 5.

The new episodes will then air in the US at 9/8c on Sunday nights from 8th January 2023 on Masterpiece on PBS.

Here actor Rachel Shenton chats about what’s coming up for Helen…


Season 2 ended with Helen in a very happy positive place. Where do we find her at the start of Season 3?

“Helen is still very much in that happy positive place. She and James are planning a wedding so they’re still in that tsunami of excitement and love and hope for the future.

“So there’s a stark difference between where we find her this series to where we found her at start of series two.”


Wedding bells are ringing… how is Helen feeling?

“She has no reservations about this wedding, or about James. They’re so in love! And that’s never been in question – I think from the moment that they met.

“I think any reservations for her are with what comes after and how she might settle into a new life and a new role and what that means for her.”


How was filming the wedding?

“It was great! It was a little bit chilly because we filmed that quite early on in the series. I think it was around March but the sun came out. What’s really nice about those scenes is everybody’s in them.

“So, you have Tony (Pitts) and Imogen (Clawson) who play my dad and my sister Jenny, and then you have James’s parents and all the Skeldale gang and everybody’s there together. That’s a rare thing really, because usually you’re kind of off in your own pockets doing various bits. So being together, that’s always a good laugh.

“Alf Wight’s children Rosie and Jim were there. That was a bit surreal. It must have been surreal for them too, as we are playing their parents so they’re basically watching their parents get married! It’s kind of crazy.

“They came over and we spoke to them a bit ahead of the scene and they watched the scene play out which was just really special. They are ever so supportive and complimentary of our versions of their parents. That was very special and we felt very fortunate that they were there.”


Helen moves in to Skeldale in this season, does that change the dynamic and the relationships in the house? And does Helen fit in with everyone?

“Yeah, she’s planted in Skeldale this series. James and Helen live in the attic bedsit and obviously, it’s very snug. She has to find her way into the well-oiled machine that is Skeldale.

“I think that is probably the most difficult part of her new life really, working out the rhythm and where she fits in.

“This is a woman who is very used to doing things for herself. She’s used to running the house, doing the cooking, the cleaning, the washing, looking after Jenny and looking after the farm – she’s busy.

“Of course, in Skeldale that’s Mrs. Hall’s job, so, it’s all about how she fits in to that. How is she going to navigate that transition and find her way? I think finding the kind of balance between Skeldale and Heston Grange is very real for Helen this series.

“Ben Vanstone just writes about that so well. He writes about the truthfulness and complexity of that because I think the assumption is always you get married, and you live happily ever after and everything’s fine. Of course not.

“That’s when the work really starts, and we certainly see that this series.”


Siegfried has always run a tight ship; how do you think he feels about Helen moving in?

“He is so used to doing things the way he has done for years. What’s nice about the dynamic between Helen and Siegfried is that she’s the only one in the house that isn’t employed by him, so she really doesn’t fear him in the same way that everybody else does.

“There’s an element of caution that comes with everybody else when they’re dealing with Siegfried. She just doesn’t really feel that straight away, she sort of inherits that as the series goes on. She learns that you must be careful in certain situations.

“Going in though, she doesn’t worry and like with any new thing there are teething issues and that’s kind of fun to play around with.”


Helen has always had a strong relationship with her own family, and now moving out that changes everything, how do you think she feels?

“This is the biggest adjustment for Helen really. She’s trying hard to work out the balance of how best to move forward.

“There’s a moment between Jenny and Helen before she gets married, a quiet moment with just the two of them, and she says to Jenny it’s not going to be any different after we get married, everything’s going to stay the same.

“I think they both realise that probably won’t be the case, but she hasn’t quite worked out how that will be. Again, that is all just very real. She’s a person in her own right with her own life and it’s like she doesn’t quite know how to manage that.

“There is a temptation to put a bow on it, tie it up and move seamlessly into this new life. It’s actually really tough and sometimes she feels like she’s getting it wrong and she hasn’t found her place in Skeldale yet.

“How does it work being a wife and how does she work on the farm at the same time? Helen battles with that throughout this series – it’s brilliant and truthful.”


Helen takes on a different responsibility supporting James in his career, particularly around the TB testing. Do you think it brings up any conflict for them, coming from both a vet and a farmer’s perspective?

“TB testing is a really good example of how Helen has one foot in both worlds. She is in a somewhat unique position because she understands the farmers, she understands the importance of TB testing and the bigger picture.

“It saves lives, she knows that. But she also understands the implications that it can have for farmers, particularly if you’re a farmer with a small holding.

“Having to close for a couple of weeks and to lose that animal can be significant to farmers. I think ultimately, she knows that James has pursued this for the greater good. She will stand by him because it’s the right thing to do, and no matter what, she believes in that. Again, it’s not a straightforward decision.

“That’s what’s really lovely is that it’s complex. I really enjoyed that element of it and seeing the two of them working together.”


And this season is set in the shadow of war. How do you think Helen feels about this looming threat?

“I think it’s really interesting for Helen because she’s of the mindset that it’ll be over by Christmas, and it won’t ever amount to anything, which many people were back them.

“She also feels reassured initially that James is in a reserved occupation, and her dad is too so obviously not going to get called up. I don’t think initially that she thinks it will affect her life.

“Then as the series progresses, and that threat becomes very real. You see Helen, at times really fight for what she wants, to keep her unit together and to protect what she’s created.

“Ultimately the driving force behind that is always that she doesn’t want her unit to get split up so when there’s a real threat of that, I think that is when it becomes real for her.”


Do you think Helen and James’ relationship changes this series?

“I think things get real in this series very quickly, more so than we’ve ever seen before. They’re no longer stealing kisses and sneaking off to go on dates.

“So, they’re working out everything, living together on the brink of war, working out how to navigate life together, and in what way they’re going to do that. We really see them have less of fast heart beating romance and become more of a team. I think that is what happens as relationships evolve.

“That has been really nice to play around with. It hasn’t felt as heady with the love story like we’ve seen in series one and two. It’s got real and the threat of war just deepens that greatly. It’s so interesting and it’s generally felt more grounded in this series.”


How is coming back to Yorkshire now you are in the third season?

“I just feel so insanely lucky to spend four months of the year in one of the most beautiful places in the UK. I hadn’t spent too much time in that part of the world before I got the job and now I just absolutely look forward to it. It is like a second home.

“You get to know the coffee places that you go and the restaurants that you go to. Of course, it isn’t just the cast that moves up, we have the whole production base you know, directors, camera crew – everybody is there and around for that chunk of time and it’s really nice.

“I definitely spend a bit too long on Rightmove when I’m there too.”


Did you have any favourite animal moments this season?

“Well, we’ve been quite cow heavy this year because of the TB testing regime. There’s been a lot of cows. The cows we use are very docile. And Scruff, played by little Bobby is always a joy.

“We did some behind the scenes stuff at the holding farm where our brilliant animal handlers keep the animals, and we had a day when Nick and I had to herd sheep.

“There was one sheep called, Frida who lives there who was hand reared, so she was as domesticated as a dog really, and would just follow us around nuzzling into us.

“Whereas obviously, when you approach a sheep, they’re usually quite scattered. They don’t want to be cuddled and she just absolutely does. Meeting Frida was a bit of a highlight for sure!”


All Creatures Great and Small is available on DVD on Amazon.