Nickelodeon /Courtesy Everett Collection
In the 18 years that the hit British children's series Peppa Pig has charmed kids across the globe, several voices for Peppa have come and gone but there's only been one Daddy Pig: Richard Ridings.
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Ridings, 63, opens up about his longtime role as the patriarchal pig and why it continues to be a "complete joy" for him to be part of the beloved kids' show.
"The writing has always been wonderful, the story-telling," says Ridings, who has been on the show since its start in 2004. "Beautiful little stories."
Ridings, who is a father himself, says it's a "joy" to keep coming back to the role as Daddy Pig, who shares daughter Peppa and son George with Mummy Pig. "I love doing it ... it's just a lovely thing to be part of, and I'm very grateful," he adds.
Part of what makes the role so special for Ridings is his ability to "keep the magic alive" and bring Daddy Pig into the real world.
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Ridings recalls one fond memory of being at the supermarket with his daughter Freya when a young girl recognized Daddy Pig's voice while shopping with her mom.
"It is quite close to my natural speaking voice," Ridings says. "There was a little girl tugging on her mum's dress, saying, "Mummy, Mummy, I think it's Daddy Pig!' It was so sweet, so I had a quiet word [with her]."
"I said, 'I think I saw him as well, but if you close your eyes, I'll see if he'll say 'Hello,' " Ridings shares.
The actor says he often has parents ask him to record videos for their kids, to which he politely declines and offers an audio recording instead.
"You can't take a video because then they'll see this balding man," he says with a laugh. "Being able to leave little messages for people and keep the magic alive for people now and again [has made me want to stay on the show]. For the little people, it's priceless. It really is."
Ridings also says he "definitely" sees similarities between himself and Daddy Pig.
"He's so loving, and understanding, and encouraging," says the actor. "[He's] always about trying to make family life a little fun as well, which I like."
As for what continues to give the show staying power, Ridings explains that the series has "so much warmth and wonderful family values deeply embedded in it" and is "funny for the adults as well to watch with their children."
The series also helps to reinforce the idea that it's okay to make mistakes.
"[Peppa's] not afraid or ashamed of making mistakes," he says. "I think to a certain extent, we've had a culture of you've got to get it right the first time. I think that's very important, that ability to be able to laugh at yourself. Have a go, maybe not succeed, but then have a bit of a laugh."