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This episode is sponsored by Viking Viking, offers a new ocean fleet designed with Alver and a state rooms for just nine hundred thirty Like-Minded guests by river and by sea. More at Viking Cruises Dotcom. I'm Joe Lacob and you're listening to Masterpiece Studio, Siegfried Farnon might pretend to be the lord of Scaled Alehouse, but the real keeper of the castle is Mrs. Hall.
The next door will be starting shortly. Please do help yourselves to tea. Oh, thank you so much.
Audrey Hall, whose first name is rarely heard a mean stew, keeps a tidy home and helps the three overtaxed veterinarians under her roof keep the lights on and the bills paid.
You don't mind if I pull out? Do you see how old James is getting old? Don't think I don't know what you believe in me.
This is all I'm offended. A gentleman never interferes in a wager.
But Mrs Hall is a mother too, and her estranged son is a quiet source of pain for the normally stoic housekeeper. When did that come back?
Who did you call me? Patron saint of lost causes, among many other, much more flattering things.
I'll drive you to Scarborough. We won't stop until we find him.
Have chased Edward long enough. He knows where I am.
Anna Madley plays the remarkable Audrey Hall. And I must say every one of her, all creatures great and small cast mates rightly singled her out for praise during their own interviews. With me Madly joins us now to discuss skell dollhouse, utopia and the charm of working with animals. This week, we are joined by all creatures, great and small star animatedly. Welcome. Thank you. Lovely to be here. How familiar were you with the 1970s? All creatures, great and small or the James Herriot books ahead of time?
Not at all, actually. I had a vague memory of the series having been known in the 70s and 80s, and I was very familiar with the theme. Gene had a really wonderful theme tune, but I didn't actually know the stories at all. So my first exposure to them was then Vanston scripts in this adaptation, and I then went on to read the books and of course, Mrs. who doesn't feature terribly heavily in the book. So it was really fascinating and exciting to see Ben decided to do with the character and her relationship in that household.
And I love the character of Mrs. Hall to know and secrete calls her at one point the patron saint of lost causes. In his script for the first episode, Ben Vanstone describes her as, quote, formidable. What's your read on Audrey Hall as a character? And do you see her as being perhaps the moral compass of all creatures? Great and small? Yeah, I think that idea of her being quite formidable, I think she's a woman with great emotional courage.
I think as you learn through the series, you learn a little bit more about her back story. And I think he come to know that this is a woman who's had to make some difficult decisions in her life, who was estranged from her son, which is a cause of great pain to her. And so I think, you know, from seeing the women who can go downstairs with a cricket bat to see who's making a noise in the shed outside in the middle of the night, you also see a woman who's not scared to take on the difficult emotional choices you make in life.
So in that sense, I suppose she is a moral compass.
It's Audrey's friend, Dorothy, who says of her, Audrey has a big heart. She opens it up to everyone, even those that don't always deserve it. I mean, is that ultimately Mrs Hall's strength or her weakness that she is so sort of emotionally open? I think it's both I think it's her strength in her relationships with other people. I think it connects the two of the people. I think it keeps the door open. But I suspect for herself, it leaves her slightly vulnerable if someone else isn't in the same state of mind, I suppose.
I think her relationship with her son might be a good example of that. We don't know exactly what's going on at this point, but the fact that it's a cause of great pain, I think she's open to keeping that relationship alive, but she's waiting for him to come and we have to see whether or not he will. So I suspect I suspect both, but I think it would be one of the things that she's loved for by other people.
It's Mrs. Hall who's largely responsible not only for the running of scaled dollhouse, but also keeping this family together and intact, as you say. We don't know the particulars yet of what happened with Edward, her son, but what is it that motivates her to care for this family now? I. Imagine coming to sell their house, this series is set in 1937, and for a woman to have had to leave a situation and find herself having to be independent and find a job and live alone in the community at that time, I think she's probably incredibly grateful that this opposition came up.
It scaled our house. It gives her a physical home. But I think over time and I think over the course of this series, you'll see that it develops into a real home for her. That is the people she you know, Seigfried fun and who's her employer slowly becomes a very good friend. And the young men who come in as we meet James in episode one is the assistant and we meet Tristan and EPSO to that that love that she has inciter, that desire to nurture, has a home with them and they love her for it.
So I think it's a situation that is a very happy evolution of coming from need to becoming something that's a real yeah. As I say, a real home.
I want to talk about Siegfried. Her dynamic with Siegfried crosses all sorts of boundaries, particularly given that she's a woman in the 1930s and in his employ. Their friendship, to me, is one of the most remarkable things about this show.
Well, James, I think we can safely say that were supposed to help.
I knew you could do it. Well, speaking of which, he's made it to six 15. So too, wasn't it?
How would you describe their rapport?
I think they have a very special report. It was one of the things I loved when I picked up Ben that the script was is Siegfried is perhaps sometimes you could say a difficult character. He's quite quick tempered or. Yeah, he's unpredictable sometimes, although predictable in his unpredictability, perhaps. But I think she just knows how to deal with that and look after him and. They slowly open up, I think it's that is, as you say, quite an extraordinary thing, you have to single people living in a house together as an employer, employee doing their jobs.
But straight away, you also know that Mrs. Hall slightly cross the line and making sure that James Herriot comes down for an interview. So while the line is there and I think, you know, the side of Mrs. Hall that has strong values and cares about her respectability, etc., I think she also will push the boundaries of things when need be. I always love that delightful scene where they're sitting having a cup of tea. And he he knows she's sad about Edward and she opens up a little bit.
And his response is just to could you pass the milk?
Well, it's early days yet, but I must admit it feels like a weight has been lifted where it might not be as strong as promised to his dying father.
You're lucky to have him so close. Why is it the ones we love most cause the most pain? Sorry, Mrs. Ford, would you mind putting the milk that kind of the difficulty of actually getting beyond just an acknowledgement of, oh, this is a difficult situation and having a conversation about it? I think there's some really lovely moments that illuminate that is it isn't just a friendship. They you know, he pays her wages and her board and, you know, it's it's complex and that that needs to be protected, particularly from her side of things that is important to protect that relationship and look after it and keep it on a.
Professional fitting in some degrees, but then, yeah, the lines always blur and I think. It's one of the things that gets balanced out, you know, you're constantly wondering, is this OK? Is that OK, as you would, I suppose, in that situation of what crosses the line and what doesn't and how far can you you know, there are moments where Siegfried Farnon makes a decision and she has to accept his decision. And so you see where the power dynamic lies in some ways.
But but, yeah, it's a real relationship. I quite cherish as an actor playing it, that it has a really delightful evolution to it.
Yes, there are two more episodes. I mean, without giving anything away, does Mrs Hall and Siegfried's very platonic relationship deepen over the course of the final two episodes?
I think it does, yeah. I think, um, let's just say a greater degree of vulnerability, of openness and that that once that's happened, you know, the friendship is strong enough to take it that you can not be scared off by someone's needing a moment's comfort, say, well, I think I think it does develop and grows to a really beautiful friendship.
You and Sam West both work together on masterpieces. Mr Selfridge, what does Sam bring to your scenes together in Skilled Alehouse?
Sam is, I think, perfect casting for Siegfried Fernande. Sam is ferociously bright. He's got an amazing mind and he's an incredibly kind hearted person. And I think that warmth that's, you know, deep down in Siegfried somewhere that care. He has that love of animals and the respect he has for the people that work with them. I think all those things Sam brings really. Great sense of warmth. I think the character of Siegfried doesn't always want to acknowledge about himself.
I think Mrs. Hall can see that from the outside and you see that that's a quality and Sam, that he can lean on and and he also is is brilliant to work with because he's he directs as well and does a lot of audiobooks. And he's brilliant researching things. So when we're worrying about anachronisms, is that something that we would say in 1937? Is that something we would do? He's he's really great for that sort of delightful intellectual geek.
It could have really come to the fore helping us get those things.
It's Mrs. Hall who urges Siegfried to give James a chance and who engineers his coming down to Darrowby in the first place. Does she see something within James that she doesn't within the other mayflies? I think they have probably been lots of prospective candidates who would have done a good job but who didn't quite have it. In them to cope with Siegfried, and I think they're all possibly at the end of their tether slightly in the sense that they really do need somebody for the practice to continue and to grow and to for life to have some quality to it.
They need somebody and think she can really see that. I think this lovely young man comes down who is quite green, who doesn't know what dealing the secret is going to be like. But he makes this huge trip. So he clearly wants the work and she can see that he's a great young guy who has the qualifications. And if she can just get him through those first couple of days and protective against, you know, the pursuit of the locals, you know, they take him out for those drinks.
I think she knows exactly what's been going on. She knows the initiation ceremony that will go on in terms of inviting somebody new into the community. So she's there to just be a little support behind the scenes to make that happen. I think she takes to James as well. I think he is a very lovely young man and she can see that. And so she's willing to go the extra mile to push for it.
Before this next question, a brief word from our sponsors. St. Petersburg's Hermitage, Moscow's Red Square golden ring town's Viking, dedicated to bringing travelers closer to the real Russia along the waterways of the SaaS, offering a small ship experience with a shore excursion included in every port, discover more at Viking Cruises Dotcom. Coming up next on Masterpiece on PBS, the series finale of the Long Song, plus new episodes of Miss Scarlet and the Duke and All Creatures Great and Small Sunday, February 14th on Masterpiece, starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Central.
Mrs. Hall has this lovely bond with Treston, who, despite his constant misbehaving, I think might be her favourite and skilled alehouse. Is he a surrogate for Edward, in a way? Has she transferred her maternal love onto Tristes to some degree?
I would say yes. I think the energy of these smart, ambitious, exciting young men embarking on their careers is something that really thrills her to be part of. Supporting that, I think, is something that she really values. And I think the fact that Tristin struggles to come out from under the shadow of his older brother, that they've had a difficult family situation themselves. I think she knows all that and can understand all of that.
And I yes, I think she also just enjoys his mischief. Yes. He's just he's a delight to have around the house because he is perfectly intelligent enough to do it and he's infuriating and that he can't quite sit down and make it happen. And so I think it does bring out the the mother in her to try and achieve him along that path at the same time as she's willing to overlook and just enjoy his nuttiness. You know, she understands it, but it's also just wanting him to to fully grow up, I suppose, and embrace life in a good way.
So I think he does absolutely bring out the nurture in her.
He's a lovable scamp, but he's still a scamp. Yeah, absolutely.
Most of the cast is filming on Muddy Farms with two tonne balls, but Mrs Hall gets to be rather cosy in her housecoats back at Celtel House a lot of the time where she's cooking and cleaning and looking after animals and the finance. Were you relieved or jealous that you wouldn't be shooting in the muck of the farmyards of the Dales or a bit of both?
To be honest, our set is absolutely beautiful. Jacqui Smith designed is really stunning house. So you walk into the set and you do feel like you would to sit down and have a cup of tea on the sofa. It's just lovely. And in the fire zone in there, it's very cosy. I wasn't that much warmer, to be honest. They built the studio up in the in the in Yorkshire for us, and it's an underrated building. So whilst I wasn't out in the wind and rain, we were still wearing lots of thermals to get onto set and yes, a bit we would love to have it out with the animals more.
I think that would be really exciting. And she does get to venture out. It's so beautiful. Up in Yorkshire is absolutely stunning. So in the sense of going to work and being out in these beautiful locations, I would love to do more of that. Absolutely. But it was I protected from the wind and rain. Absolutely.
Audrey Hall has a tragic past, but she never feels like a tragic character. Is that a difficult line to walk as an actor, to play a character who has been deeply traumatised in the past, but who attempts to rise above her traumas? I think she has had a difficult time and. I think she still struggles with it. I think she still struggles with the decision that she made and whether it was the right thing to do. And I think in her heart, she does know it was the right thing to do.
But that doesn't mean it was easy or that it's easy to live with. I think she sees a sad situation that evolved in a difficult way and.
I think she has a spirit that says to get on with it and I think she takes her role as a mother very seriously, that she still wants to be Edward's mother and be there for him as a mother. But the ball is in his court to decide to let her be that despite the decisions she's made, I think getting on with it and getting involved with people and living a full life is the best way for her to cope with that. And I think on some level, she's, as you say, OK with the decision she's made, even though it's still a very difficult one and a difficult one to be public about, I think it's something that is probably kept very private.
In this week's episode, Audrey's friend Dorothy returns and we learn more about Mrs. Hall's past, including their time together in the Ren's. I love the way that Dorothy salutes Audrey in Episode two, which is such a great little moment. What has knitted these two women together as closely as they are? I think having that training together has probably bonded them. Are two young women who when they met and were doing those things. In my imagination, it was pre being married and they were at the beginning of their journey as adults and it was an exciting time.
They had a role to play. They were doing things that they might not otherwise have had the chance to do. It adds an aspect to their characters that you don't necessarily know when you meet them, when they're that much older. But they had those experiences, I think is is a great bond for them that they can remind each other of that. And I think also their long term friends, they know each other. They know each other's families and situations.
And those sort of close friendships are really important. I think she's she's someone that knows Mrs. Hall inside out and Mrs Hall can absolutely rely on and they can have that fun with one another, that they've seen each other do everything. And I think they've just obviously got on really well. I imagine that Mrs. Hall was slightly, you know, ever so slightly higher ranking than Dorothy in the Wren's and that that was a fun thing for them to take them mic at each other about rather than any sort of real distinction.
I think it's yeah, they know each other well. They can rub the corners of each other and take the mick.
There's a hint in this week's episode that Audrey's husband was abusive and I had to take it, your designs on Mr. Fallon?
No, I don't think so.
I cannot get the point out today if he strikes me as a man who still thinks of himself as married.
Well, you can't always change how you feel.
Leaving that group was the best and bravest thing you ever did. Yes. Wow. What does her decision to leave her husband in the north of England in the 1930s no less reveal about Audrey's inner strength? And how difficult a decision was this for her?
Incredibly difficult. I don't want to say too much about the circumstances because I think it's something we will go on to explore, but.
You're talking about a time where I think it's only in the you know, women can get divorced at this point, but they can't if they've got to be able to prove I think it's in 37, you know, you can get divorced if you can prove that they've abandoned you or that they're drunk or something.
But, you know, that's only just we're in nineteen thirty seven, so I don't think it would have been easy to do that kind of separation. And I imagine the situation must have been pretty desperate for her to have to decide to go, and I don't doubt that that would have had a really strong effect on her son.
I imagine at that time, people just didn't really believe that they put up with whatever was going on. Being married was a form of protection. And I think. It puts it in a in a perspective when you think, well, if Mrs. Hall doesn't have this job at Scale Dollhouse, what does she have? If she's not supported by a husband and she's not supported by her child and that's her only child, she's in very alone. She's potentially very vulnerable.
And so it. Will doubtless have been a really, really hard decision, and the fact that she's moved away from her local area and moved to Derby, I think also says something about that ability to start again. She still wears her wedding ring, but she has given herself space to be able to go somewhere and have a fresh start.
And I don't think anyone in Derby really knows her situation. So that makes her friendship with Dorothy all the more important to her.
We come now to my favorite, Mrs. Hocine, of the entire series, the shooting gallery scene at the fair. The stallholder is clearly running a con and Audrey comes in, she adjusts the faulty site and she hits all of her targets, one after the other without even breaking a sweat.
Well, what was it you wanted to get the dog on the bear that say we won both of them well enough to learn to shoot like that?
What did you think we did in the rends embroidery?
Does this seem to sum up the amazing contradiction that is Audrey Hall?
Resolutely. I think so. What I loved about the scene as well was the quiet way in which she does it. She could see something was going on that she didn't go in and it had done. She went in and played the game and worked out what the game was and played him at it better than he could play it himself, turns it on its head, and I think also has the release of enjoying firing a gun a few times.
I think it's a really, really lovely moment where you just see another side to her where she's allowed to be more than the housekeeper and the cleaner and surprise people and have a moment of being more fully expressed.
I think it's lovely, but I think I think, yes, that that side of it, it's able to quietly call someone out on their bad behaviour, as it were, is beautifully expressed in that scene. It's great.
It's Mrs Hall who wins the sweepstake about how long James could last at the fair. How tough does she to have been proven right yet again? Oh, I think thrilled.
You know, it's another lovely example of, you know, betting's technically bad, but she joins in and she's got she's got the winning card, as it were.
I think she also knows James is a solid guy, that he's got some real backbone to him, that he might be young and he might, you know, be naive to the ways of the skill that farmers in that he he's not a pushover.
And I think she knows that he he could outdo them all. I think it's very satisfying to win that bit and prove them wrong.
All creatures, great and small has been a massive hit for Channel five. How surprised have you been to the reaction to the show in Britain?
Well, both very surprised and thrilled and excited because because it's our project and we all love it. And there are so many elements to it that I think have been done so well. And so it's wonderful to hear that response. And also it's you know, it's always a privilege not to want to entertain. And the fact that people have loved is is really wonderful. And I don't think I quite understood.
I mean, some people were saying, oh, we love the 70s, 80s version, and that was the one for us. And the fact that those people that embraced our series as well has just been just really exciting.
And I hope we can continue to entertain those audiences. It's a it's the books are so good and the spirit and the love and the humor that's in them is is just really wonderful. And I, I feel we've been able to translate that into the series and I hope we can continue to do that. And so, yeah, I'm really excited for audiences to see it. It's yeah, it's been a real thrill to hear that, that people have loved it.
You started your career as a child actor with roles such as The Skeleton and The Merry Wives of Windsor at the ABC. And Claudia, is it true that it was a speech class that propelled you into acting professionally at such a young age? It is.
Yes, I am. I went to a lady called Stella Greenfield, who was she ran an ad agency for children.
And I said to her, just a little drama class is really just speech elocution drama. And we did the local drama festivals. We enter the poetry competition or monologues dialogues, mime, all sorts of things. And I used to love doing that. And she then sent me up for a few auditions and it was really just fun.
I mean, I don't come from an acting background at all, so it's completely alien to my family. And as you say, I got to be able skeleton, which is clearly a, you know, not not the most central role in the show, but I actually loved it.
And I mean, I just. Backstage at the Barbican, it when I was seven, doing that and eating chips in the green room and I to play pool was part of the thrill.
But yeah, so I did lots of bits and pieces as a child, but then carried on with normal school and took a break for it.
Did you theatre and things. So yeah. She have a lot to be grateful to Stella for. She really opened up that world to me, not just through love of poetry and drama, but also then to the being able to work in that world as well. So yeah, that was it was an interesting start. And and then then I went did the conventional thinking.
Strom's go to 18 to. One of the earliest things that I saw you in was the cult drama Utopia, where you played Anya. What was the experience shooting Utopia like? Was it as strange as the finished product itself? Probably not, it was it was a lot of fun playing a character who had that big reveal to her, who had those other sides, a character who was pretending to be somebody else was a really fun idea for an extra layer to to put on something.
So in a way, no, it wasn't as wacky as that was watching the series. It had been, but it was a lot of fun to do.
You played Clarissa Eden, the wife of Anthony Eden in Netflix is the Crown. What was it like being part of a show that is such a global phenomenon? Was there a sense in that first season that it would be as tremendous a show as it has become?
I think so. I think there was a sense that it was a really exciting project, that it. Would be a game changer for some people, that it would have an enormous appeal and a huge audience, I think there was there was great hope for it from the get go. I remember when we did the readthrough feeling that buzz and excitement and the everyone slightly pinching themselves, that they were in the room doing this job. Yeah, definitely had that feel to it then.
And it went on to prove itself to be that. I mean, it's an extraordinary, hasn't it?
There is a second series of all creatures, great and small in the works. Congratulations. Thank you. Yes. What do you hope to have Mrs. Hall get the opportunity to do in the second series?
Oh, gosh, that's really difficult because we're all full of ideas at the moment. Now that we've been greenlit. I think the one thing we can say is we're hoping to film spring next year. So we're going to go in March.
So I think it opens up a host of summer stories, spring lambs, a whole different season because we were filming through.
We started in September and went through January. So we were going to the into the winter months when we were shooting last time. So I think being outdoors in the spring and summer is going to be really exciting. I think you might see a bit more of Mrs. Hill's hobbies come out to play her relationships blossom.
And yeah, just more of those wonderful stories. I mean, when you go into the books, there are so many good stories to tell that shine a light in the community in so many different ways. That's that's the joy of doing the series, is that there's the truth of these. The stories are based on true, true life events to start with. And so they have that truth and depth to them. That is an amazing resource to have.
And so even though Mrs. Hall didn't feature terribly heavily in the books, you still get the community in the sense of what those roles would be to draw. And so, yeah, I'm really looking forward to to see what Ben decides to write for us.
I can't wait animatedly. Thank you so very much.
Thank you. Lovely speaking with. Next time, we'll take a brief pause from the idyllic Yorkshire Dales as we turn towards foggy Victorian London and the gritty world of investigator Eliza Scarlett.
I'm a police detective. Shoot me and you will. A Scotland Yard hunting you day and night.
Also had a bullet in your chest I may not hit you were the first shot, but I will keep pulling this trigger until one of us is dead.
Miss Scarlet and the Duke star, Kate Phillips, who plays the titular sleuth, joins us on the podcast February 14th.
Masterpiece Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob, and produced by Nick Anderson, Alicia Itou is our editor, the executive producer of Masterpiece, Suzanne Simpson. Sponsors for Masterpiece on PBS are Viking Cruises, Raymond James and the Masterpiece Trust.