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60 Seconds with “All Creatures Great And Small” Actress Carol Drinkwater

Exclusive Interview by Karen Beishuizen

Most of us have watched the James Herriot series “All creatures great and small” on TV at some point in our lives. Carol Drinkwater portrayed Helen, James Herriot’s wife, for 3 seasons.

An author as well, she has written children and adult books and is currently working on a new one. She lives in France with her husband Michel.

KB: You are best known as Helen Herriot in the series ” All Creatures Great and Small “: How did you get this part and why did you leave in 1979?

I was filming The Shout in Devon with John Hurt and Alan Bates. I had two weeks off and returned to London to fly to Germany for a week’s filming on a language program. On the way to the airport my agent called me to stop in at the BBC to meet up with the producer of All Creatures, Bill Sellars. I had a short meeting with him and various other members of the production team.

I had not heard of the James Herriot books, but I found them on sale at the airport, read them while in Germany and was offered the role a week later when I was on my way back into London.

I left because I felt that there was nothing fresh, I could give to the role of Helen.

KB: Are you still in touch with Christopher Timothy who played James Herriot and Peter Davison who played Tristan?

Yes, with both and their wives. Our exchanges are infrequent these days because we lead busy lives, but the affection and bonds remain.

KB: You were a member of The National Theatre Company and worked with Sir Laurence Olivier as he was leading the theatre: How was it working with him and what did he taught you?

Yes, I was a junior member of Olivier’s National Theatre company when I was in my early twenties. He was a remarkable man, a fine leader and generous with his time and sharing of his experiences. He took me under his wing, believed in me and my work and went out of his way to give me notes on my performances, help me improve my technique. I will be eternally grateful to him for all he taught me.

KB: The first successful children’s book you wrote was ” The Haunted School ” and it ended up winning the Gold Award for Children’s Films at The Chicago International Film Festival: When did all this happen from book publication to winning the award?

I wrote The Haunted School after I had been filming in Australia on a children’s mini-series. It was there that I got the idea for the story – a historical tale about an English governess who sails to Australia and starts up her own school far from the city, out in the bush. I was actually writing a role for myself! I played the governess when the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) bought the rights to the book). The series was sold to Disney in the States – I am not quite sure how that happened and from there it went on to win the gold award for young adult fiction at the Chicago Film Festival. I was not involved in any of that but was thrilled when I was told about it.

KB: You published 4 books with Penguin between 2015 – 2021: What are the books about and I believe, if I’m correct, one of them was about an experience you had with Elia Kazan while auditioning for The Last Tycoon?

The novels are The Forgotten Summer, The Lost Girl, The House on the Edge of the Cliff, An Act of Love. Each is predominantly set in France. They are all stories of intrigue, love, mysteries with passion at their heart. The landscape and way of life in France is also, in different ways, central to each of the stories. The Lost Girl has a French actress as one of its two leading female characters.

The actress as a young woman is abused by a famous film director who is auditioning her for his new film. Yes, this scene was inspired by my own, very painful, experience with the late Elia Kazan.

KB: Last year Summer you filmed a documentary in France called Carol Drinkwater’s Secret Provence: What is it about and where can we watch it?

The six-part documentary series is titled Carol Drinkwater’s Secret Provence. It was filmed here at my Olive Farm where I live in the South of France and on location all along the French Riviera and inland in Provence. I act as a guide taking the viewer to lesser-known parts of this fabulous area and inviting the viewer into my home and olive groves where we produce our olive oil.

KB: You live in France with your husband: Why France? What do you love about it?

My husband, Michel, is French. I love everything about living here. The way of life is a celebration of food, landscape, the sea, good wine, culture. Basically, most of all that matters to me in life.

KB: Are you still acting, and do you have anything new movie or series in the pipeline?

Yes, I am still acting. I consider the series Carol Drinkwater’s Secret Provence an acting role of sorts. I am in front of the camera even if I am not playing a written character. My agent and I are discussing a second series with the UK Channel 5. I am also at work on a new novel.

KB: Any actors you currently like and who you would like to work with?

I like and respect many actors. Actors are an inspiration to me. They always have been. Hugh Grant, who I worked with on the film An Awfully Big Adventure, is an inspiration both as a man and as an actor. I admire Olivia Coleman. The American actress, retired now, Gena Rowlands was also someone I admired greatly. There are so many. Meryl Streep, of course, for her tenacity and versatility.

KB: The whole world has been in several lock downs due to the raging pandemic: what have you been doing during these lock downs? Any hobbies you enjoy you?

I was writing An Act of Love, working on its edits, during the first lockdown. We shot the series Carol Drinkwater’s Secret Provence last summer during the pandemic, which was quite a feat.

Now, I am at work on a new novel also set down here, and it crosses over the border into Italy. I try to keep busy!

Have a look at Carol’s website HERE