This Country star Michael Sleggs has been honoured in the final series of the hit show, following his death at the age of 33.
He played the character Michael “Slugs” Slugette, having been written in to the script by the show’s creators, his friends Daisy May and Charlie Cooper.
The first episode of the third and final series is entitled A Letter From Slugs and is a tribute to the actor, who died in July following heart problems.
The Coopers, who play cousins Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe, described Sleggs as “an integral part” of the BBC show.
They spoke at a screening of This Country in their home town of Cirencester, Gloucestershire, about how it felt to film the third series without him.
Charlie said: “It was so difficult. I think we always wanted to include him and I know he wanted to be included.
“It was really tough filming those scenes but we had to be truthful to that character and the storyline.
“I genuinely don’t think this show would have been half as popular or successful if it hadn’t been for Michael.
“He totally embodied the whole spirit of the show.”
Sleggs’ family were present at the Cirencester screening, held in the town’s Bingham Hall, when the episode in tribute to him was played.
Daisy May said: “It was so important to us to have him in the third series because he was such an integral part of the show.
“He was so funny. We miss him so much.”
The new series, made up of six episodes, will feature characters already in the show as well as appearances from special guests – including staff from a local recycling centre.
Fans’ favourite, the Reverend Francis Seaton – played by Paul Chahidi – takes a central role.
Charlie said: “When we were writing this series, the vicar became more of a focal point.
“The first was Kurtan trying to escape, the second was Kerry’s unrequited love of her dad.
“The third was exploring him (the vicar).”
More than 25,000 people applied to watch the Cirencester screening of This Country, with demand so high that a second event was held.
The 400 people present voiced disappointment as the team behind the show confirmed that it would be the final series.
But the Coopers hinted there could be more to come from the show, such as Christmas specials or even a film.
“I think it felt right really,” said Charlie.
“We wanted to end it while the quality is still there – we didn’t want it to fizzle out.
“Michael not being here, we really felt his absence during the filming.”
– The third series of This Country will start at 7pm on BBC iPlayer on Monday February 17.