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Linda Bassett: ‘Call the Midwife mirrors life – there are always surprises in both’

(Image credit: BBC/Neal Street Productions/Lawrence Cendrowicz)

Linda Bassett has delighted Call the Midwife audiences since her arrival at Nonnatus House as no-nonsense midwife Phyllis Crane. Yet the midwives and nuns have no idea her brusque professional manner is hiding a big secret.

Linda hints: “Phyllis is a bit different to the rest of them. She’s a self-styled spinster, a career woman and dedicated to midwifery. She’s devoted herself to her work… But there are surprises in the life of Phyllis Crane!

"The fascinating thing about this job is that you don’t know everything about your character when you start. There’s always surprises in life so it mirrors life in that way."

What’s on TV can reveal viewers will see a hidden vulnerability to Phyllis in Sunday's Call the Midwife. The first glimpse comes when Phyllis buys a ticket to a charity dance, and the younger nurses are so surprised they bust out laughing, leaving Phyllis hurt and humiliated.

After this, lonely Phyllis throws herself into her work, helping pregnant unmarried teenager Paulette and her ex-borstal boyfriend Vaughan. He desperately wants to put his criminal past behind him and marry Paulette, but her family is having none of it. Surprisingly, this is something Phyllis empathises with. And, during a rare moment of openness, she confides a deeply private and personal secret to Vaughan, which has cast a shadow over her entire life.

Linda, who played Queenie in Lark Rise to Candleford, is remaining tight-lipped about the secret, but reveals she’s delighted to have landed the part of Phyllis in Call the Midwife: “Phyllis so obviously wants to make the world a better place, and is something of a campaigner. When they first offered me the job I thought I’d be a nun. But I can’t sing, so it’s just as well I’m bossy Nurse Phyllis Crane!”

She added: “It’s funny to work in a period that I was born in and remember – it makes me feel like a period piece myself!”

Watch Call the Midwife on BBC1, Sunday, February 22 at 8pm, to learn Nurse Phyllis Crane’s deeply buried secret. It goes a long way to explaining why the nurse has turned out the way she has…