For the past decade, Call the Midwife has been entertaining us with all manner of joyous births, hard-hitting medical cases and everything in between, with viewers remaining hooked as the nuns and midwives of Nonnatus House treat the needy residents of Poplar in London’s East End.
As the 10th seven-part series of Call the Midwife begins this week, it’s 1966, and Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) is looking for new ways to keep Nonnatus House afloat. And she thinks plucky nurse Trixie Franklin, could be just the person to help. Helen George, 36, reveals more…
Could you have imagined that 'Call the Midwife' would still be going strong after 10 series?
"I can't believe it’s been 10 years, it’s quite scary! I remember those first days on Call the Midwife like it was yesterday. It's been a fantastic ride. So much has changed and evolved, particularly for Trixie, so it's remained fresh to me and people like Jenny Agutter have been so supportive personally and professionally."
As the new series kicks off, Nonnatus House is still under threat from the local council, is there any hope?
"Yes, they want to make money by renting out the midwives to this private clinic, the Lady Emily. Trixie is seconded there to see if it could be feasible. Trixie is pretty excited to begin with because she gets to go on a trip to Chelsea and she’s given this gorgeous pastel pink uniform to wear."
What does Trixie learn from working there?
"It’s rather grating for Trixie to see these lovely Chelsea women in this gorgeous clinic getting first-class care like they’re in a hotel, while the women in Poplar have to live in such awful conditions. It’s a real eye-opener for Trixie - it’s a shock to see how the other half lives."
Tell us about the births we'll see...
"At the Lady Emily, Mr Scarisbrick [Richard Dillane], who runs it, pampers the mothers and that takes their confidence away. We meet Fiona [Jo Herbert], who’s tired and could just do with some vitamins but Mr Scarisbrick insists on admitting her. It’s buying into this idea that women can't cope but we can!"
Do you still love filming the births?
"Because of COVID restrictions, this year definitely felt different. We filmed a lot more with prosthetic babies, so the actors never held any of the real babies. So I did a lot more with pretend babies, which is always a shame - but filming a birth while practising social distancing is very tricky!"
What other cases and social changes will feature in the series?
"There’s more development in the East End with tenement buildings being knocked down and a new wave of living accommodation coming through so we look again at social housing. Also, 1966 is the year of the World Cup - Trixie draws Argentina and has an Argentinian flag-like dress!"
What’s your one favourite moment from the past 10 years?
"Trixie’s on-going alcoholism has been a fantastic challenge. But the most resonating moment came for me in series nine when Nonnatus House had to fight to remain as part of the community in terms of midwifery and nursing. Trixie spoke out [to the council] and listed the mothers and the patients who’ve they’ve treated in Poplar."
Call the Midwife starts on Sunday April 18 at 8pm on BBC1.
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