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WHAT’S ON: Call the Midwife at Christmas

WHAT’S ON: Call the Midwife at Christmas

Undated BBC Handout Photo from Call the Midwife ??? Christmas Special. Pictured: (L-R) Laura Main as Shelagh Turner, Helen George as Nurse Trixie Franklin and Leonie Elliott as Nurse Lucille Anderson. PA Feature SHOWBIZ Christmas Call The Midwife. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/BBC/Neal Street Productions. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature SHOWBIZ Christmas Call The Midwife. WARNING: Use of this copyright image is subject to the terms of use of BBC Pictures' BBC Digital Picture Service. In particular, this image may only be published in print for editorial use during the publicity period (the weeks immediately leading up to and including the transmission week of the relevant programme or event and three review weeks following) for the purpose of publicising the programme, person or service pictured and provided the BBC and the copyright holder in the caption are credited. Any use of this image on the internet and other online communication services will require a separate prior agreement with BBC Pictures. For any other purpose whatsoever, including advertising and commercial prior written approval from the copyright holder will be required.

As the BBC favourite returns, Georgia Humphreys finds out what festive fun fans can expect.
Miriam Margolyes back as Sister Mildred, a bumper number of babies being born and plenty of tugging at the heartstrings; this year’s Call The Midwife festive special won’t disappoint.The period drama – created and written by Heidi Thomas, 59 – is airing on BBC One in its usual Christmas Day slot and it will also return for an 11th series early in 2022.

Last year marked a decade of the much-loved series, which is set in Poplar, in the East End of London, and follows the work of midwives and the nuns of Nonnatus House, who are also navigating the changing times of the 50s and 60s.

In this new episode, it’s December 1966, and an extremely busy time. Not only is the maternity home chock-a-block with expectant mothers – many of whom are facing serious problems in their personal lives – but preparations are also underway for Lucille and Cyril’s Boxing Day wedding.

Curious to find out more? Here, we get the inside scoop on some of our favourite characters.

SISTER JULIENNE

CATCHING UP…

A huge part of series ten was the fight to secure the financial future of Nonnatus House, which was led by the one and only Sister Julienne. She has been a character in Call The Midwife since it first started, and is played by Taunton-born Jenny Agutter, 68.

She notes how Thomas’s scripts continue to be surprising for cast and viewers alike.

“She twists and turns stories. You think you know where something’s going to go, and it doesn’t – it suddenly goes in a different direction.”

WHAT’S HAPPENING AT CHRISTMAS?

The esteemed actress – who began her career as a child, starring in the likes of The Railway Children – was delighted by the return of Oxford-born Margolyes, 80, who did not appear in series 10.

“Miriam is entirely wonderful and completely unpredictable, and just great fun to be around. She’s an extraordinary mind.”

Within the Christmas special, Sister Mildred sits and tells a Dickens story, which Agutter teases is “magical”.

“I was just totally riveted by that!”

FEELING FESTIVE

What gift does Agutter think her much-loved character would love to open at Christmas?

“Sister Julienne would probably receive lots of little bath salts and soaps but what she’d really like is something that’s been made for her, perhaps by children in the community. She herself loves to make cards and paint things.”

NURSE TRIXIE FRANKLIN

CATCHING UP…

Portrayed by Helen George, fashion-conscious Trixie has had a turbulent past, including a battle with alcoholism.

Series 10 saw the midwife, who we’ve followed since the first series, bonding with widower Matthew. Played by Olly Rix, he also appears in the festive episode.

Matthew’s wife died from acute myeloid leukaemia after giving birth to their son at the clinic Trixie was working at.

WHAT’S HAPPENING AT CHRISTMAS?

Expect even more birth scenes than usual, which George, 37, relished being part of.

“From speaking to various midwives over the years, Full Moon and Christmas is the time when you know loads of babies are going to happen, so it feels realistic,” says the star, who was born in Birmingham.

George, who gave birth to her second child with former Call the Midwife star Jack Ashton in November, was pregnant while filming series 11.

They use “props, costumes, clipboards, camera angles” to hide her bump on-screen, explains the star, who trained in musical theatre and came sixth in Strictly Come Dancing in 2015.

“I think it’s important, and I know other women do it on other shows and films. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be done, as long as there’s thought to it and people can work with it.”

FEELING FESTIVE

George also shares an insight into recreating snowy scenes in the middle of summer, which is when they shot the new episode.

“It is weird because you see the white snow around and obviously it’s fake, but it does make you really cold, internally. You start shivering and thinking it’s Christmas.”

CYRIL ROBINSON

CATCHING UP…

The last series saw pastor Cyril (Zephryn Taitte) finally ask nurse Lucille (Leonie Elliott) to marry him, after a slow-burning romance – and it was an incredibly touching scene.

It certainly made fans of the pair – who first met back in series eight, and are both immigrants (Cyril from Guyana and Lucille from Jamaica) – very happy.

“There was a lady on Twitter, she recorded the proposal and she filmed herself like, ‘I’m crying!’ and she tagged me,” quips Londoner Taitte, who also starred in TV series Brothers with No Game.

But, the question is, will the couple actually make it down the aisle?

WHAT’S HAPPENING AT CHRISTMAS?

Taitte, 35, admits he was “scared” ahead of filming the Christmas special because it has such a big focus on Cyril and Lucille.

But the actor took it in his stride when it came to being on set, which he remembers as being “joyous”.

“I never really get to have scenes with Daniel Laurie [who plays Reggie], so that was really nice,” he adds. “There is a moment when we are throwing snowballs at each other which is really tender.”

FEELING FESTIVE

Asked about his own Christmas plans, Taitte says he plans not to cook.

“We are going to go to a hotel and have dinner there and be served! I want to stay up late and stay in my pyjamas and just do nothing. Just have eggnog or pure rum cake and watch movies all day like The Goonies.”

FRED BUCKLE

CATCHING UP…

Happy-go-lucky Fred is a recurring Call The Midwife character, portrayed brilliantly by London-born Cliff Parisi.

The handyman is married to Violet (Annabelle Apsion), and together they care for Reggie, who has Down’s Syndrome, following the death of his mum – Fred’s cousin – in series six.

The family has so many lovely scenes together – and in the finale of series 10, we also saw moving scenes where Fred and Violet helped support a couple dealing with their newborn being diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome.

WHAT’S HAPPENING AT CHRISTMAS?

Well, Fred and Cyril are good pals, and so Parisi, 61, played a big role in the stag-do scenes.

In fact, it was the former EastEnders actor’s idea to make it a dominoes party.

“Where I used to live there was a pub where all the bus drivers and conductors went after work to play dominoes,” he recalls.

“They were predominantly West Indian, so I suggested that we had a dominoes party for the stag do and we did! It was hilarious and really good fun. We used a dominoes club from Brixton and they were brilliant.”

FEELING FESTIVE

For the tenth Christmas in a row, Fred is Santa again, which obviously meant Parisi donning fancy dress once more.

“He does a kind of snow dance as well because Reggie wants snow and he’s determined that we have a white Christmas.

“So, Fred is very involved in all of that malarkey and usual Christmas capers. It’s going to be fabulous.”

Watch Call The Midwife on BBC One this Christmas Day.


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