The actress and comedian reminisced on her character Geraldine Granger's puddle plunge during her one-woman show in Exeter last week.
"One of the most enjoyable moments in my work life was being asked to jump in that puddle. It seemed to tickle a few funny bones. So much so that it was repeated in another episode," French told her audience.
However, the stunt suddenly became significantly less fun when French was asked to recreate it by producers of Paul O'Grady's chat show in 2009. At the time, the actress stood in for O'Grady and recreated the moment to end the programme.
"They constructed a 10ft-high hill out of scaffolding covered in AstroTurf. The idea was that there was a long enough drop for me to disappear into," she explained.
"Then some bright spark had the idea of having a shallow silicon membrane containing two inches of water on top so that, as I jumped through, the water would splash up and look like a deep puddle," she continued.
French clarified that "two very thin crash mats" where placed 10 feet below on a flat concrete floor.
"Any fool would know this was a disaster in the making. Any fool but me," she said.
"The producers took me to show me and see if I was all right with it. And I replied 'Of course I'm all right with it, I'm British.'"
French completed the skit, landing on the two mats and realising something was wrong.
"I went 10ft down and plump on to the two crash mats. One leg twisted very awkwardly underneath me and I landed very heavily. I heard the worst twanging noise you could ever imagine," she said.
"The producers were asking if I was all right but I said I was fine. I drove five hours home to Cornwall trying to convince myself everything was all right but it wasn't."
In 2017, French went to a surgeon as the pain became unbearable and managed to continue working by resorting to steroid injections in her knee — no more than three, she was told. While these helped keep the pain at bay, she knew she'd need to have a knee-replacement surgery in the future.
In 2022, she finally called the doctor to consider a more permanent solution for her injury and realised there had been a misunderstanding regarding the injections.
"I called the surgeon to have the [knee replacement] operation. Then he told me I couldn't have three injections in total but three a year," she said.
"I could have had loads of injections for all those painful years."
The Vicar of Dibley is available on BBC iPlayer.
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