All Creatures Great and Small's original TV Helen put herself forward for new Mrs Pumphrey role

The actress who played Helen Herriot in the original TV version of All Creatures Great and Small has spoken of wanting to play the role of Mrs Pumphrey in the re-adapted Channel 5 version.

Carol Drinkwater in her new Channel 5 show. Picture: Media Sud Productions.
Carol Drinkwater in her new Channel 5 show. Picture: Media Sud Productions.

Carol Drinkwater performed in the first three series of the BBC show that started in 1978.

She now lives on an olive oil farm in the south France, and tomorrow the first episode her new Channel 5 documentary about Provence begins.

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During an interview with The Yorkshire Post, she says that she asked her agent to get in touch with the broadcaster to see if they wanted to cast her as Mrs Pumphrey, a role that was originally played by Margaretta Scott on the BBC and initially went to the late Dame Diana Rigg in the new series.

Drinkwater said: "I said to Simon, my agent, will you ask Colin (Callender, CEO at Playground Entertainment) and his team if they'd be interested in casting me as Mrs Pumphrey and they came back and said 'How very thoughtful of you but...'".

Breaking into a laugh, she added: "Well they didn't actually say no but they said 'We'll be in touch' or something, the old nut. And then of course I read that Di had got it, Di Rigg, so there we are.

"And even after Di died they didn't come back to me so they definitely didn't want me for the role, that's clear!

"Actually I think I would have been rather good in it."

The new series doesn't show in France so Drinkwater has not seen much - but did not see a lot of the original either.

"I've hardly ever seen any of the classic series. I've probably only seen one or two episodes. And only those because I was somewhere where I had to watch them."

She said: "Someone sent me a couple of scenes of Di Rigg as Mrs Pumphrey and I did watch those. I thought actually she was rather wonderful in the role. Very different to from the way Margretta Scott played the role and the way I would have played it.

"I often think that people as they get older maintain a certain quality of their younger years, like hairstyles. Not that they don't change, but there's a trace of their younger self in their style, I always feel that.

"And I thought Di Rigg brought to the role something very kind of 1910, a quality of the way she looked and dressed and the way her hair was, had a wonderful kind of pre-First World War quality about it, which of course at the time when the series of set would have been the sort of age she would have been when she was a young woman. Whether that was intentional or not I don't know but I thought it was a kind of lovely aspect of her way of playing the role.

"You could see what a beauty she had been, a young Mrs Pumphrey had been when she met her very rich husband and all those kinds of things or whatever the story was. So I thought she brough a lovely quality to it.

"And of course Di was wonderfully mischievous. She was a very, very mischievous young lady."

Drinkwater knew Dame Diana when working in the wardrobe department backstage at the National Theatre (before later going back as an actress).

"So I remember her very well when she must have been about 12 or 13 years older than me," she said.

"I was 18 and very shy and self-conscious and there was this gorgeous Di who used to come into the canteen and she was like a butterfly, a rather beautiful butterfly. So I have memories of her from back then too."

Patricia Hodge has since been revealed as Dame Diana's replacement in the role of Mrs Pumphrey.