I recently reached out to the actress Carol Drinkwater to ask if she would care to speak with me for my blog. To my great delight she agreed! Carol is a household name here in the UK for playing Mrs. Helen Herriot in the TV series All Creatures Great And Small. Carol has worked on stage and appeared in many films and series. Carol is also a published author.
My thanks must once again go to Carol for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope you all enjoy reading what she shared with me.
1 – Did you always want to be an actress when you were growing up?
I come from a theatrical family on my father’s side so from about the age of four I knew I wanted to “go on the stage”
2 – You worked at The National Theatre under the leadership of Sir Laurence Olivier. Did you ever meet the man himself, or get to act alongside him in any productions?
Yes, of course, I met him regularly. He was one of a large panel who auditioned me. He took me under his wing and mentored me and really encouraged me. Somewhere, I still have letters from him. I loved his company. He was very charming and astute.
3 – How did you prepare for the role of Helen in All Creatures Great And Small? Did you and the others in the main cast meet the real life counterparts of your characters?
I didn’t really prepare for the role except by reading the Herriot books over and over, spending time with Joan Wight, the real Helen. Plus all the months, years, we spent in the Dales where I became friends with many farmers’ wives and local people.
4 – The British public have really taken this series to their hearts over the years. What is it about this series that you think has made it become so beloved?
I think it has several ingredients. The material is very warm-hearted and positive. The main actors really worked well together. We were an immensely happy cast and crew. The cameo actors were warmly welcomed and not looked down upon as I have come across elsewhere. As the success of the series grew so did our pleasure and confidence in our work.
5- One of the things I love most about this series is the genuine warmth, affection and chemistry between yourself, Peter Davison, Christopher Timothy and the late Robert Hardy. Did you guys become friends and keep in touch over the years?
We all remained friends up till Tim’s(Robert Hardy’s nickname) death and we three continue to stay in contact and care for one another.
6 – You left the series after the 3rd season, and the role of Helen was played from then on by the late Lynda Bellingham. Why did you decide to leave the series?
I felt that there was little more I could give to the role. The BBC wanted to keep Helen in her place and I felt she needed to be more feisty. I needed them to give more meat to her scenes.
7 – I can imagine that there must have been many funny and chaotic moments on set/location due to the antics of the animals. Are there any such moments that have stayed in your mind over the years?
Many. I still smile and giggle when I think back to occasions such as Chris driving the car into a barn wall which was not a real wall but built for the scene and it crumbled all around him. A cow that pee’d all over me and my dress which I had to wear all day because we had no back up wardrobe …
8- You played a nurse in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. What are your memories of working with him and making the film?
It was such a tiny role but I stayed in contact with Stanley for years. He was a master of his craft and a considerate director who respected my point of view.
9- That film famously sparked quite an outcry and public backlash upon release. Kubrick received threats and the film ended up being withdrawn from distribution. What did you make of the reaction to the film at the time?
I didn’t think about it. I was busy doing other work, building my career. Stanley chose to withdraw the film from circulation in the UK. Elsewhere, it continued to play.
10 – A film of yours which I’d really like to see is Father(1990). You play the daughter of a man suspected of being a Nazi war criminal. From the couple of clips I’ve seen of the film, it looks like you and co-star Max Von Sydow were really put through the wringer emotionally in this film. What was it like making this? What are your memories of working with Max?
Max and I had a very rich three and so months working together. We were in almost every scene so we lived in the same hotel in adjoining rooms in Melbourne, worked on Saturdays together on the next week’s scenes and then went to the movies and out to dinner together. I respect him deeply. He is a very generous actor to work with.
11 – Which of your own performances(can be screen or stage)are you most proud of and why?
I don’t have one. Each has given me something different, new lessons, joys, laughter, new friends.
12 – You are also a writer of Fiction and Non-Fiction. What led you to decide to become an author?
I have always written but when I met my husband in Sydney in 1984 he began to encourage me to give the writing more attention. As a career it took off very quickly.
13 – Your latest novel is The House On The Edge Of The Cliff. Tell us a bit about this story.
Well it is the story of an actress- not me! An imagined character who went to Paris in her teens and got involved in the Student Riots there. Escaping the police she goes south with a young Englishman she connects with in Paris. They go to stay at his aunt’s amazing house overlooking the sea near Marseilles. The House on the Edge of the Cliff. Here the young actress meets another young man and falls in love or so she thinks. A terrible accident ensues which haunts her for decades. Years later she finds herself living in that House and a stranger walks into her life and threatens her with the secret from her past.
14 – What does Carol Drinkwater’s writing routine look like? Do you have a specific area you like to write in? Set time of day to write that seems to work best for you etc?
I prefer to work in the mornings through to early afternoon but like today, for example, I have so much on that I am writing far longer hours. I prefer to write at our Olive Farm in the South of France but I will find myself a quiet space anywhere if needs must.
15 – Tell us a bit about your Olive Farm memoirs series.
In my quartet of books known collectively as The Olive Farm Series, I wrote about our discovery of a crumbling cream villa in the South of France encircled by acres of centuries-old olive trees growing wild.
The Olive Farm recounts many of the trials and tribulations of setting up home in a foreign country, taking on another language, embracing twin, thirteen-year-old stepdaughters whose mother tongue was not my own and who adamantly refused to engage with me in English. I revealed the heartache of losing my own child, the grief that followed the miscarriage and the revelation that I would never carry a child to full-term.
These books are about the joys and sorrows and funny times of falling love with a man, taking on his family and living in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
16 – As an author, do you find you prefer to write Fiction or Non-Fiction books? Do you find one easier or more difficult to write than the other?
To me, they are both about storytelling, taking the reader on a thrilling journey with a thoroughly addictive story.
17 – Are you working on another book right now? If so, can you give us a taste of what it’s about?
I am working on two books. Both set in France. One modern, one Second World War.
18 – Any advice you would give to aspiring actors and authors?
Work very very hard, don’t accept defeat, believe in yourself and your material. Keep an open mind. Read nonstop.
Thank you so much again to Carol. You can keep up to date with all of Carol’s news and work at her website – http://www.caroldrinkwater.com/
Follow her on Twitter – @Carol4OliveFarm