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article imageBlandings star The Empress dies

By Mathew Wace Peck     Mar 1, 2013 in Entertainment
The Empress, one of the stars of the popular television comedy drama series, Blandings, has died, the BBC has confirmed.
The Empress, a Middle White pig, passed away just prior to the final episode of Blandings being broadcast last weekend.
Together with her co-star, Queenie, the sow lived at Crom Castle, in Northern Ireland, where the series is filmed.
According to Noel Johnston, The Empress died of a massive heart attack during the night. Johnston lives and works at Crom Castle, where, along with his wife and three sons, he cares for the pigs on behalf of Mammoth, the company that produces Blandings for the BBC.
Speaking with fondness for The Empress, Johnston said earlier this week, “I acquired [her] got her pig number and everything sorted and brought her over from Lancashire. She was with us for a fortnight getting settled in before she began filming [the series]. We had become very attached to her.”
Blandings – which is based on the Blandings Castle stories by P G Wodehouse – also stars Timothy Spall (Auf Wiedersehen, Pet) as Lord Elmsworth, Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous) as Lady Keeble, Mark Williams (Father Brown) as Sebastian Beach, and Jack Farthing (Da Vinci’s Demons) as Frederick Threepwood.
Spall told the BBC of his affection for the pig and that he was sad by the news of her death. “Very upset to hear of the passing of the poor old Empress," he said. “At least she had a late life in showbiz, which she enjoyed very much when she managed to wake up and I believe she had a luxurious life after her showbiz debut, as she stayed living in the castle.”
The Empress of Blandings - to give her her full name - who was introduced to viewers in the first episode, “Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey”, went on to appear in all the subsequent installments.
The Empress was described as “such a gentle pig [who] did everything she was told. Johnston added, “She was such an odd funny looking pig. If there is a second series, they will struggle to find [another] pig like her.”
When not acting, The Empress spent her time sleeping, “up to twenty hours a day”, and eating. “She loved her food [and] her sleep […]’ Johnston confirmed. “As soon as you opened the door, she was up like a bolt because she knew the food was coming.”
Meanwhile, the BBC executive producer of Blandings, Kristian Smith, said: “We were very lucky to have found such a characterful and humorous pig [who] captured the spirit of The Empress of Blandings perfectly. We are saddened to hear of her death. She was a delight.”
Blandings is a six-part series, based on the works of P G Wodehouse. It was filmed at Crom Castle, near Newtownbutler in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Crom Castle – which doubles as the fictional Blandings Castle, home to the dysfunctional aristocratic Emsworth family in the series – is owned by Viscount Crichton, the Earl of Erne.
Viscount Crichton actually appeared in the series himself, as Under-Butler to the Emsworths, fulfilling his acting dream. “I was given a very small part as an extra playing an under-butler in my own house,” he confirmed, “which the cast and crew thought was incredibly amusing.”
The BBC is yet to announce whether the hope-for second series will go ahead.
More about Blandings, The Empress, Noel Johnston, PG Wodehouse, BBC
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