All Creatures Great and Small exit: Why Carol Drinkwater quit Helen Alderson role

All Creatures Great and Small: Season 2's happy ending

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All Creatures Great and Small (ACGAS) just finished season two on Channel 5, reintroducing a new generation of fans to the beloved James Herriot novel characters. The novels were first adapted for the screen in 1978 with the original BBC series. In a recent interview, Helen Anderson star Carol Drinkwater shared why she decided to walk away from the groundbreaking series. 

Why did Carol Drinkwater quit Helen Alderson role?

For original fans of ACGAS, they will remember Drinkwater as James Herriot’s (played by Christopher Timothy) original love interest.

The first series ran between 1978 and 1990, but Drinkwater did not remain part of the cast for the full run.

In fact, the star left the show in 1985 after appearing in 42 episodes and two TV movies based around the show.

Drinkwater, 73, has now returned to TV screens for the six-part Channel 5 documentary series – A Year in Provence with Carol Drinkwater.

The new show follows the star as she visits places that are important to her around her home of Cannes in France.

However, in a recent interview with The Yorkshire Post, Drinkwater looked back at her time on ACGAS and her decision to leave.

Following her exit, she was replaced by Lynda Bellingham in the role, but Drinkwater did admit if she could go back she “wouldn’t have left it.”

Drinkwater explained: “I was already thinking about leaving because I felt that there was no more stretch for Helen.

“They wanted to stay very strictly to the books because Alf was alive and at that stage, he was quite adamant that they did.

“And I didn’t feel that there was anywhere else I could take Helen, I thought that I’d reheated that teabag – ‘Oh James, let me make you a cup of tea’ – enough times and unless there was new material for me I felt that it was time for me to move on.

“And I was getting lots and lots of offers because the series was very successful.”

Yet, Drinkwater has since realised it is a decision she wouldn’t make again, but she doesn’t regret it.

“Having said that, if I had my time over again, I wouldn’t have left it,” Drinkwater continued.

Adding: “I feel I could have achieved all the things that I have achieved and continued with the show, but you know, that’s life.”

After leaving ACGAS, Drinkwater continued to star in shows over the next 15 years, appearing in series such as The Haunted School, Captain James Cook, and Coming Home.

Before retiring in 2000, her last performance was in an episode of Casualty as Frances Lawson.

Yet, Drinkwater is now back on screens for her documentary series, ending a two-decade-long hiatus.

The first three episodes of the documentary have already aired, all being available on My5.

In ACGAS, Helen is now played by White Gold star Rachel Shenton.

All Creatures Great and Small is available to watch on My5.

A Year in Provence with Carol Drinkwater continues Sundays at 9pm on Channel 5.

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