'Call the Midwife' star Jenny Agutter: ‘10 years as a nun is quite something!’

Jenny Agutter in Call the Midwife
Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne in Call the Midwife. (Image credit: BBC and Nealstreet Productions)

It’s hard to believe but it’s almost a decade since we made our first visit to Poplar to witness the challenges faced by the hard-working residents of Nonnatus House in BBC1’s much-loved period drama Call the Midwife

Now, the 10th series is upon us and 1966 brings a raft of new births, moving medical cases and social changes for the nuns and midwives. But stalwart head nun Sister Julienne, played by Jenny Agutter, is still leading the battle to protect Nonnatus and the team's vital work as the local council are unsupportive. 

The opening episode sees her devise a revolutionary plan to hire out some of her midwives to a private clinic, The Lady Emily, in West London, to bring in much-needed funds and she sends efficient nurse Trixie Franklin (Helen George) there on secondment to see if it would be feasible.

We caught up with Jenny Agutter to find out more…

When can I watch 'Call the Midwife' 2021?

The new seven-part series of Call the Midwife is available on BBC iPlayer in the UK. In the US, PBS will air the 10th series from September 26.

Jenny Agutter on how the medics are trying to save Nonnatus House

“The real worry is that they will not be able to afford to stay because they're not getting any support and they still have to make sure that they're remaining central in their community. But Sister Julienne sees the possibility of the midwives being able to be used privately and that would take care of a financial element.” 

Jenny Agutter on sending Trixie to the Lady Emily

Helen George in Call the Midwife

Trixie (Helen George) goes on secondment to a private clinic. (Image credit: Nealstreet Productions)

Doctor Turner [Stephen McGann] feels we are the NHS, we shouldn't be dabbling with a private clinic, but Sister Julienne sees it as an opportunity to remain afloat. But she still has to make sure everything is correct. That’s why she sends Trixie and we see at this private maternity home what families from a middle class background expect. It's a different world."

Jenny Agutter on the births in the opening episode

Ella Bruccoleri in Call the Midwife

Sister Frances (Ella Bruccoleri) needs help following a dramatic birth in Call the Midwife. (Image credit: Nealstreet Productions)

“Sister Julienne deals with a wonderful, easy birth. But then the mother’s next door neighbour is also giving birth and has problems. It's a touching story. There is a real mystery as to why this has happened. It’s all about Call the Midwife showing it doesn’t always have happy endings, it just shows people coping.”

Jenny Agutter on her joy at filming the birth scenes

“Even with the social distancing we do now on set, the mothers are there with their babies and you spend a quiet day with them having the birth scenes. There’s something so delightful about having these little ones around.” 

Jenny Agutter on the medical cases in store later in the series

“Down’s Syndrome comes up again and the way it's done is terrific. And there is a rare condition that arises and Sister Julienne gets involved with a family whose child doesn't seem to be developing as it should. It's something I knew nothing about.”

Jenny Agutter on Nonnatus House setting up a sweepstake to celebrate the 1966 World Cup

“They become very excited about it, Fred Buckle [the handyman-turned-newsagent played by Cliff Parisi] in particular. It’s a chance to get together and have a bit of a knees-up. The trouble is they have to draw lots, they don’t get to choose their sides, and I don’t think Sister Julienne ends up with a side that she wants! I remember I was 13 and at boarding school in 1966. England were an amazing team but they looked unlikely winners and everybody was caught up with it because it was just so exciting.”

Jenny Agutter on marking Call the Midwife’s 10th anniversary

“I remember so vividly starting the series and reading these beautiful episodes and suddenly we had this huge audience, which was wonderful, but unexpected. And it just grew. I can't believe that we've completed our 10th year. It’s been absolutely brilliant. Ten years as a nun is quite something!” 

Caren Clark

Caren has been a journalist specializing in TV for almost two decades and is a Senior Features Writer for TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and What’s On TV magazines and she also writes for What to Watch.

Over the years, she has spent many a day in a muddy field or an on-set catering bus chatting to numerous stars on location including the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Suranne Jones, Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi as well as Hollywood actors such as Glenn Close and Kiefer Sutherland.

Caren will happily sit down and watch any kind of telly (well, maybe not sci-fi!), but she particularly loves period dramas like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Crown and she’s also a big fan of juicy crime thrillers from Line of Duty to Poirot.

In her spare time, Caren enjoys going to the cinema and theatre or curling up with a good book.