‘All Creatures’ interview: Samuel West on how Siegfried has changed 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 Samuel West chats about what’s coming up for Siegfried…


Set the scene, where do we find Siegfried at the start of the third season?

“There’s going to be a wedding, which James ridiculously says that is something that Siegfried encouraged him to do, which is nonsense. In fact, James and Helen getting married in the spring is deeply inconvenient.

“It’s the hardest and the busiest time of year! Siegfried claims he had nothing to do with making it happen, despite apparently having invited Helen to live in the house afterwards. So, we have a new member of the family.

“They’ve always had a bit of a bond, Helen, and Siegfried. In the very first episode, when we’re walking across the field, I remember making a comment about it when James thinks that Jenny is Helen’s daughter. He has the same with Tristan – we’ve both got much younger siblings with absent mothers.

“That kind of brings us together in a way. There’s always been a respect there. And of course, I’m absolutely delighted that James, who I love, is getting married, but that doesn’t mean that I wish it was happening now…

“I think Siegfried’s relationship with Tristan has settled down a bit, after the revelation about the exams, we seem to have a newfound respect for each other. I’ve learned stuff about his relationship with our dad that I didn’t know before. During the course of the series, he learns something about my relationship with Evelyn that he didn’t know, and his own upbringing which is valuable.

“I suppose a lot of these new feelings has to do with approaching the great uncertainty of war. He feels like he is sort of stretching out like an octopus trying to hold different bits – the people and the life – together as best he can.”


Siegfried has quite an emotional journey this season, and I wonder did you learn new things about your character?

“I think the great pleasure of playing a character for three years, particularly one that’s been as well researched and set up by Ben Vanstone, is the things that happen. Sometimes it’s like they were behind a very thin curtain, you couldn’t quite see clearly and then you go “yes of course I’m like that, of course that makes absolute sense”. I think that’s true of a lot of the revelations that we get.

“We know from the first series that Siegfried had a difficult first war, as many people did. We know that he has a special love for horses, and overall, prefers the average horse to the average person. And I think that might seem a little strange to people who don’t know – people are not horses.

“I think what I learned this series is that what was quite an extreme thing about Siegfried’s character, now seems perfectly reasonable.

“I suppose that means I’m getting more into character too, because quite a lot of things about some of his character arcs, they just seem totally reasonable to me. We learn a lot about his history with horses. Because it affects how he’s called on to treat one, and it conflicts with what he feels is best. And he’s a man of honour and that’s difficult.”


So, you had to do a lot of work with horses this season. Tell me how you prepare for that?

“I have had some very good riding lessons with Mark Atkinson, our extraordinary horse master and his amazing son Ben, who made me feel totally safe and confident. They also showed me how I would examine a horse and how I would give a horse an injection and check its legs for injuries and all those things, which is really important to me, personally.

“So when we finished I’m going to go back to having lessons and say to Ben (Vanstone), please write me something that I can aim for next series. And I’ll be so excited.

“Principally, it’s about looking confident, but actually just enjoying yourself around the animals. I felt that because I spent enough time with Mark and Ben with their horses that was never an issue. Even though I’m not particularly good. I just felt comfortable.”


And Siegfried gets a new pet this year which you were particularly pleased about…

“I have to say that when they finally said there’ll be a story about a rat, I was so excited. Maybe I’ll clip its nails, you know, they have sniffles I could give it drops.

“I know roughly what goes wrong with rats. But they’ve come up trumps they’ve given me one and it’s become my companion. I’m just delighted. First of all, like most of the boy animals in the show, he’s played by a girl.

“Two of them, in fact, because if they’re a single rat they get lonely. But yes, he’s very friendly and an absolute delight. I’m biased, but I would never get a hamster or guinea pig if I could have a friendly rat, they recognise their names!”


Are Siegfried and Tristan on more of an even keel this season?

“The interesting thing with Siegfried in series two, when he became unstuck, is that he lied. He lied about something for the benefit of somebody that he sometimes grudgingly loves, and it didn’t work out. And that was an important lesson because he could see lying is quite straightforward.

“It’s one of the things I like most about him. So maybe there’s more of an honesty and a realisation that honesty is the best policy, even though you know, somebody who can be incredibly annoying. So yeah, I think that does probably put us on a level.

“I mean, the real differences are how best to father. His father was quite controlling, and left Siegfried with a style of looking after anything, which is quite authoritarian. So, he’s quite controlling. And Tristan doesn’t like that.

“He’s not my son. And even if he were, at some point, you have to do the best for them so they can be the best they can be. If you love someone set them free. That’s my motto for Siegfried this year.”


Having been through a war before, it must be tough on Siegfried to help the family navigate the emotional feelings around war?

“I think one of the important things is that in January 1939, maybe nine months before the war started, and before this series starts, the British Government published a list of reserved occupations. Veterinary, Scientists, Farmer, Researchers are all on that, so, there is absolutely no need to sign up.

“And arguably, the government is saying, you are serving your country better in the event of a war by keeping milk herds producing, by keeping beef herds free from TB.

“There’s an enormous disappointment and an enormous sense of responsibility on behalf of him, his family and his people around his family. Siegfried wants to protect and convince them that what they do is right and good and doesn’t need to be changed.

“That is one of the ways in which the war, which has such long fingers, puts its hand into the house. The young ones think it’s all a great game. But those of us who were there the first time are just going “you have no idea what you’re getting in to”.”


Given they both lived and served through the First World War do Siegfried and Mrs Hall share the same hopes and fears? Does this strengthen their bond?

“Yes, I think without them discussing it explicitly, it very much does. It affected our children. The war affected our children in different ways. I mean, principally because Siegfried and Evelyn didn’t have any. But those notional children were very much present in Siegfried’s mind and his heart through other children in this series as well.

“His brother who is a surrogate child, and James, who is the age a son of his could be, compared to Mrs. Hall who has one that she doesn’t see. Siegfried’s relationship with his dad was soiled by the war.

“I think it’s safe to say that they do find themselves bonding over these things. Mrs. Hall is in a safe place too. He’s not going to suddenly turn around and say, I think our circumstances look a bit strange, I’m not sure you can continue here. She knows that. Everything’s on the table now and it’s okay. I think they’re both wise enough not to tinker with a machine that works.”


And he hands James a bit more responsibility this season?

“Yes, which absolutely pulls against something that’s quite deep in Siegfried. I mean, it’s always had that tension, you know, realising that James is a good second vet and would be an asset to practice.

“So yes, grudgingly, Siegfried sees that he’s good for us, and that he needs responsibility and needs to be allowed to take more initiative himself and for his personal growth. Partly because his instincts are good. He’s a very good vet.”


You’ve been playing Siegfried for a number of years; how do you feel about him now?

“I mean, famously, as actors, we’re not really allowed to say, I don’t think my character would do that. I find that I don’t want to say that most of the time. I find myself asking what would Siegfried do?

“The answer is often almost anything and not in a way you were expecting. I hope we don’t lose his eccentricity. I think as the personal responsibilities have got heavier; he has perhaps felt a little bit muffled.

“Perfectly, understandably, we’ve learnt more about him, you know, he’s become deeper and more serious as a character in series three, which is useful and good and truthful. But I don’t want to lose that idea. That sense of him being a bit of a loose cannon. Because that’s fun to play and a useful mixture in the house.”


Do you have any favourite locations?

“I mean, of course, it’s always wonderful to be out in the Dales but I think my favourite location this series has been the one which wasn’t particularly romantic.

“Just the one where the horse River and I worked. Because for three and a half days it was quite concentrated and real work, I think it went well. So that’s just it’s a place that holds good memories. As well as Staveley Nature Reserve, which is only about 10 miles away.

“I had been in the last month of filming and there was a Glossy Ibis, which was beautiful. It’s a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Reserve. It’s been well looked after. That’s very pleasant walk at the end of the day, lovely orchard, and lots of people walk their dogs. It’s just very calm. That was a new one to me.”


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