Call the Midwife star Jenny Agutter reveals nod to tragic Barbara in Christmas special

Barbara in Call the Midwife
(Image credit: BBC/Neal Street productions)

Jenny Agutter on the challenge that Sister Julienne faces as the Call the Midwife gang celebrate Christmas and remembering poor Barbara

The residents of Nonnatus House face a busy festive period in the Christmas special of Call the Midwife. Trixie (Helen George) is back in Poplar to lend a hand as the nuns return to the Mother House to vote on who should replace the dying Mother Superior. But Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) is horrified to find out that she is the prime candidate!

Here, Jenny Agutter tells TV Times all about the Call the Midwife Christmas special…

TVT: Does the Christmas episode have a nod to Barbara (Charlotte Ritchie), who died in the last series?

Jenny Agutter: “Her death continues to be felt quite deeply because her photograph is there, so she’s kind of present. She is spoken of and missed. And on set Charlotte is really missed too!”

TV Times: Does the episode feel very Christmassy?

JA: “Oh yes it does, even though we shot it in the boiling heat. I did have one wintry moment filming on the beach at West Wittering. That was a cold day but it was beautiful.”

Call the Midwife cast in Christmas Special 2018

Don't miss Helen George in the Call The Midwife Christmas special!

TVT: How do the nuns fare at the Mother House?

JA: “Because we’re at the Mother House, there are completely new things in the Christmas episode that one wouldn’t normally have in Nonnatus. We are introduced to this other world, which is full of nuns! The Mother Superior is dying and she’d like Sister Julienne to take over but Sister Julienne is not happy. She loves Nonnatus House and wants to stay a part of it – and I still want to be in the series!”

TVT: Does she face a dilemma?

JA: “The questions that come up are about obedience as a nun as opposed to what you feel called to do. Lots of different stories in the episode question people’s dedication or calling or faith and this is obviously very apparent in a nuns’ environment in a convent, which is also an orphanage.”

Ella Bruccoleri, Miriam Margolyes and Fenella Woolgar in the Call the Midwife Christmas Special

Ella Bruccoleri as Sister Frances, Miriam Margolyes as Sister Mildred and Fenella Woolgar as Sister Hilda in the Call the Midwife Christmas special (Image credit: Neal Street Productions/BBC)

TVT: Have you enjoyed working with Miriam Margolyes who guest stars as formidable Sister Mildred?

JA: “Miriam’s unpredictable. She said, ‘Did you hear I was a little naughty?!’ But she’s a joy. Her character has lots of layers. She knows there are difficulties being a nun but she’s energetic. When I read it, I thought, ‘Miriam could play this role.’ She’d been saying for years she wanted to be in it.”

Call the Midwife airs on Christmas Day on BBC1 at 7.45pm

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.