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Patricia Hodge reveals what it was like to replace Diana Rigg on All Creatures Great and Small

The late Dame Diana Rigg passed away in September 2020

Jayne Walsh

Patricia Hodge OBE, renowned for her decades-long acting career, has opened up about her imminent return to screens as Mrs Pumphrey, a character originally made iconic by the late Dame Diana Rigg, in the much-anticipated second series of Channel 5's All Creatures Great and Small.

SEE: First look at All Creatures Great and Small season two

Approaching the role of Mrs Pumphrey, Patricia held cherished personal memories of Dame Diana. "I met her several times. I didn't ever work with her. But the very, very last encounter I had with her was one to remember," she told press at the show's launch earlier this week.

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WATCH: Exciting new trailer for All Creatures Great and Small

When considering whether meeting Diana had affected her approach to the role, Patricia reflected: "She was lovely, she was very, very generous. So, it was an honour really."

READ: All Creatures Great and Small: when is season two out?

READ: Everything you need to know about the All Creatures Great and Small Christmas special

Patricia carefully contemplated this undertaking and understandably did not want to merely mimic Diana's creation. During the first discussions with producers, she asked: "Do you want me to step right into the shoes?" But the producers trusted Patricia's instinct and assured her: "They said no, just do what you think is right."

Acknowledging that Dame Diana's performance set the bar very high, the Hotel du Lac star added: "You know you could never play Hamlet if you thought of all the people that have gone before."

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The cast of All Creatures Great and Small attend the show launch earlier this week

From Patricia's first day joining the close-knit cast of All Creatures Great and Small she shares that they became as much a family on set as they are on screen: "I didn't have to think about it because everybody just accepted me from day one. So that was that. Watching it now, I'm incredibly moved, because I feel very lucky to be with this lovely set of actors."

It's tricky not to mention Mrs Pumphrey without commenting on her inseparable and beloved Pekingese sidekick "Tricki Woo," who is cradled in Patricia's arms at the press launch as she sings his praises: "He takes direction, that's the point. I mean it's extraordinary!"

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Series two of the show starts on Thursday 16 September

Executive Producer of series one and two Melissa Gallant gushed: "We were completely thrilled when Patricia said yes. It's another member of British acting royalty joining us and from two seconds of her being on screen, she is Mrs Pumphrey."

READ: What happened to the real James Herriot?

And it's good news for fans, as it sounds like showrunners are hoping for many more series to follow. "We're very keen," Melissa told HELLO!. "I've been in television 20 years and this really has been the best job in the world. It's such a family behind the scenes and just the material is so joyful." Lead writer Ben Vanstone echoed: "We're very keen! There's plenty more to come. We will see what all the stakeholders say."

The second series of All Creatures Great and Small returns to Channel 5 on Thursday 16 September at 9pm.

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