The timeless appeal of the Fair Isle sweater isn’t lost on Callum Woodhouse, who plays Tristan Farnon in Channel 5’s popular revival of All Creatures Great and Small.
“It’s a great look,” he says. “I wish I could wear that kind of thing in day-to-day life, but I feel if I did everyone would go, ‘Oh, it’s Tristan’. People would think I was turning into the character.”
Still, he’s delighted to hear that Tristan has become a fashion icon, and not for the first time. “When I was doing some research before the show,” he says, “I found a Pinterest board called ‘Tristan Knitwear’: endless images of every jumper, every Fair Isle sweater, that Peter Davison [who played him in the original BBC series] wore! Oh my God, is it going to be that big this time round? That’s pretty cool.”
Given that the series was filmed on location in Yorkshire during the winter, Woodhouse’s thick Fair Isle was a godsend. “You’re dressed in these three-piece tweed suits with a thick sweater underneath. But every day when I arrived on set, I’d still put thermals on underneath, because it was bitterly cold. If we end up doing series two in summertime, I might be in trouble.”
Woodhouse has faced this problem before. While filming the ITV drama The Durrells, in which he played gun-loving Leslie, his 1930s outfits were initially at odds with the Greek climate. “We were fortunate in that our clothing became less thick over time, but in series one, we arrived in Corfu wearing three-piece suits in 30-degree heat and we were melting. But in All Creatures we’re glad of all the layers.”
In this year’s All Creatures Christmas special, fans will get an eyeful of Woodhouse in a cheery Santa’s elf outfit. Tristan in tights at the Skeldale House Yuletide party is a sight to behold.
“Getting on set every morning and seeing everyone’s reaction was a lot of fun. Although it was a bit difficult when I was doing a heartfelt, emotional scene.”
He also gets to do some drunk acting. “That was fun, too,” he smiles. “Ages ago, I read a quote from actor Willie Ross, who played the dad in Rita, Sue and Bob Too. He said the secret of playing drunk is looking like you’re trying to stay upright, not about to fall down. I tried to do a bit of that. Hopefully it paid off.”
One of the most cherished aspects of James Herriot’s yarns is the relationship between lovable rogue Tristan and his eccentric older brother Siegfried, played in this adaptation by Samuel West.
“The dynamic between me and Sam is just like it is in the show,” he says. “Half brother, half father. I think we capture that bond well. Doing scenes with Sam was massive for me; he’s an actor I grew up watching. I was obsessed with that film Van Helsing, where Sam played Dr Frankenstein. On set one day, it clicked that it was him; I couldn’t get over it.”
Woodhouse clearly loves playing Tristan, sweaters, booze and all.
“I’ve never had a chance to play a character who’s constantly upbeat and optimistic. There would be days where I’d come to set in the morning and I might have woken up on the wrong side of bed or whatever, but because of the place I had to get myself into to play Tristan, I’d leave every day in the best mood ever.”
This interview originally appeared in the Radio Times magazine. For the biggest interviews and the best TV listings subscribe to Radio Times now and never miss a copy.