7 things you didn’t know about Jennifer Kirby - AKA Call the Midwife’s Valerie Dyer
From a Harry Potter addiction to surprising family traditions at Christmas - there's lots more to actress Jennifer Kirby than delivering babies on Call the Midwife...
Actress Jennifer Kirby has been delighting Call the Midwife fans in her role of nurse Valerie Dyer since she arrived on our screens back in series six. But when she's not on set, dressed in her 1960s nurse uniform, Jennifer can usually be found reading Harry Potter or at the cinema with her dad...
1. Her family have a brilliant Christmas tradition
While most people spend the lead up to the festive season frantically doing some last minute present shopping or dashing to the supermarket for some forgotten Christmas dinner ingredients, things are much calmer in Jennifer’s family home. The actress told express.co.uk: “I always go home to the West Midlands for Christmas and it’s a family tradition for my dad to take us to the cinema on Christmas Eve. I think started when Mum wanted to get us out of the house so she could prepare stuff for Christmas Day!”
2. She cut her hair off for her Call The Midwife role
After landing the role as nurse Valerie Dyer, Jennifer was asked if she would be happy to have her long brunette hair cut off for the part. But while lots of people would need time to consider such a huge change, Jennifer not only said yes immediately, but she even donated her hair to The Little Princess Trust to be made into a wig for a child going through cancer treatment.
3. She used to be really shy
Despite being on one for the UK’s most popular TV dramas, Jennifer hasn't always been a performer… she once told express.co.uk: “I was a very shy kid, almost painfully so. I wouldn’t talk to people in shops, I was very nervous and wanted to be in the background. I definitely wasn’t the sort of ‘look at me’ child whose family have videos of them performing at three years old. Then I suddenly had a huge change of heart.”
4. She used to work in a VERY posh department store
Having studied English and drama at the University of East Anglia, Jennifer took a year out where she worked as a sales assistant on the second floor of London’s Fortnum & Mason. But it seems serving the rich and famous wasn't for Jennifer, because she was then accepted at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art where famous actors like as Benedict Cumberbatch and Jim Broadbent also attended.
5. She’s had a hugely successful stage career
Before her glittering career in television began, Jennifer was a big name on the stage. In fact, she was so highly regarded that she was signed up to play Elizabeth Bennet in Pride And Prejudice at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in London before she had even graduated drama school. Her performance was so good that she won a nomination for outstanding newcomer at the 2013 Evening Standard Theatre Awards, and she was in almost continual employment with the Royal Shakespeare Company until she joined Call the Midwife.
6. She celebrated getting her Call The Midwife role by going shopping
After her amazing stage career, Call the Midwife is Jennifer’s first ongoing TV role. Despite having appeared in a one-off episode of Holby City before landing the role of Valerie, Jennifer was so over the moon to land her new job that she made sure she celebrated in style. She told express.co.uk: “I had some champagne straight away, paced around the house for about an hour and a half then went online shopping big time!”
7. She reads to unwind
While her Call the Midwife filming schedule can be gruelling, Jennifer makes sure that she finds time to relax and unwind. While watching TV with a glass of wine usually does the trick, she’s admitted that she gets bored easily and so goes to museums, reads books and listens to audio books to keep her mind occupied. She is also a self-confessed Harry Potter fan, and has read each of the JK Rowling books numerous times - and even her cat is called Hermione!
The Call the Midwife Christmas Special is on BBC1 on Christmas Day at 7.45pm.
Picture credits: BBC/Neal Street productions and Instagram.
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Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia.
After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and whattowatch.com writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off.
She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz!
As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.