Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
3

TV News

'Call The Midwife' Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart Q&A: 'You will wince'

By
'Call The Midwife' cast

© BBC

Sunday nights are all about comforting drama, so start preparing the sofa now for brand new BBC One show Call The Midwife!

Yes, things are about to get a lot more maternal at the weekends as the show - based on the memoirs by Jennifer Worth - follows the lives of a group of midwives in 1950s East London.

Stars Jessica Raine, Helen George, Bryony Hannah and Miranda Hart recently chatted to reporters after a screening of the first episode, so read on to find out whether the show made them broody, who found the prosthetic babies "spooky" and why they ended up eating a lot of cake...

Did you get to meet or speak to Jennifer Worth before she passed away?
Jessica: "No, I was really upset about that. I think it was the day after it was locked into place and it was definitely going to happen and I was really excited about it, and along with that news was the news that Jennifer had passed away. So it was a really odd feeling. I was so looking forward to meeting her because I had read the books years before I knew this was going to be made into a TV series... I was upset not to meet her, but meeting her family was good."

Miranda, Jennifer Worth picked you, didn't she? How was that?
Miranda: "Amazing. She sent me the book and said, 'When I first saw you on telly, I thought Chummy'.' I thought, 'Ooh, that's intriguing' so I flipped straight to Chummy's entrance in the book. You would, wouldn't you? And I thought, 'I really hope I get to play this'. So I was thrilled."

Jessica, the part of Jenny must have been highly sought-after. Did you have to audition for the role?
Jessica: "I auditioned for it... I got one phone call going, 'Can you ride a bike?' I thought, 'A bike? What does that mean?' and then heard nothing for another week or so, so I was climbing the walls. Then I found out and I was just very excited and then scared."

Why scared?
Jessica: "I'd spoken a bit in the audition about how I hadn't done much filming before and I was a bit scared of the camera, and overcoming that would be a great thing. And then getting the role and going, 'OK, I'm going to have to overcome it!' It was just terrifying, but everyone was very supportive. Me and Bryony were in the same drama school, so that was great. And then there was this group of experienced actresses with Miranda in the middle bridging the gap, making everyone laugh. It just all clicked."

Bryony, you've done a lot of theatre work. Did you notice the difference between theatre and television?
Bryony: "There were lots of things like hitting marks which are quite simple when you know what you're doing, but at first you're not thinking about the acting, you're just thinking, 'Move here, stand there, pick that cup up'. Especially the dinner scenes - they were hilarious with this awful onion soup. On the first take you'd really go for it - you'd have loads of soup, bread, sandwiches, pouring tea. And then for the next take, you're thinking, 'Oh God, what order was everything in?' And three hours later you're stuffing sandwiches down you. But you learn as you go!"

Did you have midwifery lessons?
Jessica: "We had a week of blocking the births and also being introduced to the 1950s equipment. It was quite scary looking, like the glass enema. I watched a lot of One Born Every Minute! What struck me was how different the births are and also how amazing midwives are. Jenny's so inexperienced and acts calm but is like, 'Oh God, I don't know what I'm doing'. You realise how responsible you are in that situation. I don't know if I could really do it!"

Become a midwife or have a child?
Jessica: "Either now! It's too much information."

'Call The Midwife' cast

© BBC



Did you do any research?
Bryony: "My niece is training to be a midwife, so I went to her hospital. They were so excited - they knew the books and they were delighted it was being made. They were just thrilled about it and they showed me a real placenta! It was nice to have the privilege. It's huge! I'm so broody - it's unbelievable. One Born Every Minute is sort of terrifying, but absolutely enlightening in the best way. Yeah, I'm well up for it!"
Helen: "A lot of my friends are having babies so I did all my practice on them and measured their bumps. I said I could deliver all their children, which I probably couldn't! It hit home the sense of responsibility, because I'd never really thought about it."

What was it like working with the babies?
Bryony: "It was wonderful. There's a story about a white mother who has a mixed race child with a white husband, which is so moving. I got to do it and I couldn't believe it. My boyfriend is black and we would have a mixed race child and it was just... holding him, so beautiful. And doing the birthing sequences we realised we'd feel quite faint because we got so involved. You sort of forget to breathe a bit! It was such a privilege to be trusted to hold them."
Jessica: "We don't get to handle babies unless they're your own anymore really because families have moved, so I'm pretty inexperienced. At the beginning I was a little like, 'Agh!' and then sort of felt this massive ease by the end. You could just sort of scoop them up! That was really nice."
Helen: "We had these prosthetic babies the whole way through and we were taught to treat them as if they were real babies, so we had a practice with them before we had the real thing. They were so wonderful and so real looking."
Miranda: "I found them quite spooky! They're really real, and they're very heavy... It was quite terrifying learning how to deliver a baby. Quite intense."

Did you get broody, Miranda?
Miranda: "No, I was too in the moment. And one [baby] did p*ss in my glove... no thanks!"

Do you think this will be compared to other period dramas?
Helen: "I don't think there can be that many comparisons. Yes, it's a period drama, but it is fundamentally about midwives and there's nothing really for my money that does that... It's about time they should be celebrated. Yes, it happens to be a story set in the '50s but I don't think you can compare them. It's very different from Downton and all those projects.

Did any of the conditions in the show shock you?
Jessica: "When I read the script, I thought, 'This can't be true'. It's extraordinary. I cannot fathom the conditions they lived in. All of the women have a resilience and humour."

'Call The Midwife' cast

© BBC



Are there any similarities between you and your characters?
Miranda: "We look alike! It feels entirely different, actually. I suppose you could say in terms of characters I've played before, that sort of fish out of water, plunged into a world that she doesn't really fit into. But not personally."
Jessica: "It was a weird parallel, because I was scared and Jenny doesn't know what she was doing and I didn't know what I was doing! That experience was similar. And she's quite private and doesn't really want to talk about the big love in her life. I suppose I'm quite private in a similar way."
Bryony: "I think Cynthia's more like a younger me - quite optimistic and hard-working. I've gone off! It wasn't one where you create an imaginary suit and step into it - I suppose it was more of a little side step."

Miranda, we see you struggling with a bike. Was it hard for you to pretend not to be able to cycle?
Miranda: "I thought, 'That's an acting challenge' because apparently once you've learnt to ride a bike you don't forget. But it turns out - no offence girls - I was by far the best! They were really heavy old bikes with no gears at all. So actually it worked out. Though I say it myself - and here's a showbiz exclusive - I'm a natural cyclist. I had the confidence to wobble about whereas Helen would actually have fallen over. It was quite fun - I call it stunt work."

What was it like walking on to set and into 1950s East End London?
Helen: "The sets were beautiful. They were just incredible. They really took you back. The scenes with all the kids running round in the little ragged jumpers and all the sheets hung up - it was great."
Miranda: "They were the biggest set-ups I'd ever seen. It felt like a film, it was amazing."
Jessica: "It was exactly how I'd pictured it, which I don't think happens very often. You read a book and you've got it in your head. It's just phenomenal and the detail of the set and that kitchen with the Horlicks and biscuits and cakes. I imagine people watching this on a Sunday night thinking, 'I have to have cake!'"
Helen: "It's all we do. Just eat cake."
Miranda: "That's a contractual thing of mine."

There's a really warm friendship between the midwives - does that continue?
Helen: "They're all quite supportive of each other. Fundamentally they are there as a vocation and they're there to get on with the work and yes, there are men coming in and all of those things, but they're friends through and through and there's a strong network of support. Even if there's tension with the older nuns there's still a sense of love between them."
Miranda: "There had to be really."
Jessica: "There's no room for any bitchiness because you're so tired. They're going out on their bikes on eight square miles of East London. And it was rough, there were meths drinkers everywhere. All of them - which I thought was so refreshing - they're so empathetic, not only with each other, but with all of the women. You don't often see that. There's a real heart and a real love."

Were there any moments when you were surprised about how graphic it was? Do you think viewers will wince?
Helen: "I hope so - I want them to wince a bit! Every birth is different. They're not pretty and there's a certain sense of that. It's very modest. Everything's covered up as it was in the '50s. There's no flesh on show, there's no funny shots or anything like that! It's sensitively done."
Jessica: "I remember wanting it to just be real and not prettify it or not make it gruesome and just make it real and... you're going to wince!"

Call The Midwife begins on Sunday at 8pm on BBC One.

You May Like

Comments

Loading...