Nicholas Ralph — things you didn't know about the TV star

Nicholas Ralph stars as James Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small.
Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small. (Image credit: Channel 5)

Nicholas Ralph has become a household name thanks to his role as James Herriot in the new adaption of the iconic series, All Creatures Great and Small.

But before joining the legendary period vet drama, which is based on the books by real-life vet Alf Wight and originally ran on the BBC from 1978 to 1990, Nicholas also appeared in films The Devil's Light, A Most Reluctant Convert and The Wife

Nicholas is now back for All Creatures Great and Small season 4. But what else is there to know about the actor behind the vet from the Yorkshire Dales? 

Nicholas Ralph isn't actually Scottish 

All Creatures Great and Small Christmas 2021 special

Nicholas Ralph in All Creatures Great and Small. (Image credit: Channel 5)

While Nicholas grew up in the Scottish Highlands, he was actually born in Cape Town. He not only spent his early life in South Africa, but he also had family in Georgia and Texas, meaning he spent much of his childhood visiting the US, too. 

He gets on brilliantly with his co-star Rachel Shenton 

When asked by about his friendship with his All Creatures Great and Small co-star Rachel Shenton, Nicholas revealed they have a great bond: "We have so much fun. Before a take, if it’s something fun and James and Helen are having a laugh or really enjoying being in one another’s company, we always try and make each other laugh, either do a silly voice, or Rach sometimes will pull faces."

Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot and Rachel Shenton as Helen Alderson in All Creatures Great and Small

Nicholas has struck up a great friendship with All Creatures Great and Small co-star Rachel Shenton.  (Image credit: Channel 5/ Playground Television (UK) LTD)

He's had some close shaves with the animals on set

Nicholas Ralph in All Creatures Great and Small

Nicholas's bovine co-star can be quite the diva! (Image credit: Masterpiece)

The old adage has always warned TV stars against working with children and animals... and Nicholas can vouch for that! He told us: "So we had Jester the bull who was two tonnes and the size of a shed. This series we have Monty the bull who is younger and smaller but from the same lineage and the same breeders. He's still a big dude! I had to learn how to ring his nose. It’s sometimes quite intimidating around the bigger animals but luckily they are trained so well so it was all fine." 

Talking about the animals in the fourth series, he says: "We have a boxer dog who's got a bit of an anti-social problem which is very funny. That's with lovely Mrs. Pumphrey so you can imagine there's a lot of fun to be had there. We have some goats that get loose in Skeldale and run amok. The animals are just trained so well it is absolutely brilliant. They never put a foot wrong, and I was asking the animal wrangler how do they do that? They did it with a buzzer and some food. So, they would press the buzzer and then the goats would know that that's where the food was. It was so impressive. That was a really good day. It was a lot of fun".

He compares playing football to being an actor 

Having grown up playing a lot of football, Nicholas says he can see a lot of similarities between the sport and working on the set of a TV show. 

He told "More often than not, I was captain of the football team, as well, growing up, and I loved that and it’s something I really missed. And then being one of the main characters (in All Creatures Great and Small), I really felt that bit of responsibility again, like the captaincy role. I loved that, and trying to bringing everyone together, and I found something that I thought I’d never find again, since playing football."

He grew up surrounded by farm animals 

The bond that Nicholas has with animals on screen as vet James Herriot isn't just for show, the actor actually grew up with livestock pretty much in his garden in the Scottish Highlands. 

He told "When we were little kids, the farmer would lift us onto the back of one cow and take us the length of the garden. We named her Friendly because she wasn’t scared of us, which is quite sweet. Other times there were cows that actually broke out and they’d be in your garden, munching the flowers."

He had to do a 'vet bootcamp' for the role of James Herriot 

Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot with a horse in All Creatures Great and Small.

Steady there, I'm just learning the ropes!  (Image credit: Channel 5)

Despite already knowing one end of a cow from the other before getting the role thanks to growing up in rural Scotland, Nicholas told Town and Country that he went on a vet bootcamp before filming started: "From the start I said, 'I want to do as much as possible that's still allowed,' because the rules for animals in entertainment have changed in the last 75 years, so now you can't do anything that one, the animal doesn't require, and two, you're not trained to do."

Nicholas Ralph's fact file 

Answers to the most frequently asked questions about the actor....

How old is Nicholas Ralph?

Nicholas was born on April 13 in 1990 which makes him 33 years old. 

Where was Nicholas Ralph born?

Nicholas Ralph was born in Cape Town, South Africa. 

Is Nicholas Ralph married?

No, Nicholas isn't married. 

Does Nicholas Ralph have any children?

No, Nicholas doesn't have any children. 

Twitter: @NicholasRalph_

Instagram : @nicholasralph_

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the last article update.

Claire Crick
Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 

After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off

She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 

As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.