'All Creatures Great and Small' Cast: Producer Talks About Replacing the Late Diana Rigg in Season 2

All Creatures Great and Small returns to PBS on Jan. 9. But one familiar face will be missing from the second season of the cozy, heartwarming series. Diana Rigg, who played Mrs. Pumphrey, died in 2020. Patricia Hodge has joined the All Creatures Great and Small cast in her stead, stepping into the role of the owner of the pampered Pekingese Tricki Woo. 

‘All Creatures Great and Small’ producer explains the decision to recast the Mrs. Pumphrey role 

When Rigg died in September 2020, the All Creatures Great and Small team was faced with a choice. One option was to simply remove her character from future episodes. Another was to introduce a new character related to the original one. But Mrs. Pumphrey – who first appeared in the pages of the James Herriot books on which the show is based – was too good of a character to give up. Instead, they decided to recast, with an eye toward finding an actor who could bring something new to the part. 

“I thought if they could replace Dumbledore in Harry Potter, we can we could find another Mrs. Pumphrey,” executive producer Colin Callender told reporters during a panel discussion at the Television Critics Association summer 2021 press tour. “The truth of the matter is that it was a tragic loss. We all adored working with her, but we wanted to find an actor who would make Mrs. Pumphrey her own, not try and replicate what had come before, but actually make it her own.” 

The current ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ cast has made the characters their own  

While the All Creatures Great and Small cast and writers have put their own spin on Herriot’s characters, the show remains true to the spirit of the author’s original work. 

Anna Madeley plays Mrs. Hall, who is not very fleshed out in the books. But the actor still turned to them to help understand the world her character inhabits. 

“Reading the books was great in terms of getting the community, the sense of all the other characters and their journeys and what was going on,” she said. “They’re just gorgeous and heartwarming and keeping that world alive while you’re shooting is just great.” 

The books “were by my side the whole way,” said Nicolas Ralph, who plays James. “You obviously take a lot from the books and then also the scripts, Ben’s wonderful scripts, when building the character up. Then you can merge those all together. But the books were never far away.” 

All Creatures Great and Small Season 2 premieres Sunday, Jan. 9 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS. 

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