Pam Ferris & Jessica Raine, Call The MidwifeJanuary 6, 2012
London’s poverty-stricken East End in the Fifties is the setting for Call The Midwife, based on Jennifer Worth’s best-selling memoirs. The series follows young nurse Jenny as she starts work at Nonnatus House, where the nuns and nurses live and care for the local community, delivering dozens of babies a month.
The six-part BBC1 drama sees Jessica Raine play Jenny and Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne, the nun in charge. Pam Ferris plays Sister Evangelina, Judy Parfitt is Sister Monica Joan, and Laura Main stars as Sister Bernadette. Jenny’s fellow nurses are Trixie (Helen George), Cynthia (Bryony Hannah) and Chummy (Miranda Hart).
What was it that appealed to you about Call The Midwife?
Pam Ferris: Funnily enough a friend of mine had just read the book and said, ‘Do you want me to keep it out of the library? It’s fabulous.’ But I had a chain of books I was reading and said take it back, I’ll catch up with it soon. But a recommendation from her was a pretty powerful thing. And then about two days later the phone rang with it.
I’m finding the books really fascinating. Is the word feminist a dirty word anymore? I hope not. As a feminist, I think it tells us where we came from and that we should really be grateful for things that have changed over the last 50 years.
Did you get the chance to meet Jennifer Worth?
Pam Ferris: No I didn’t. She died, bless her, a few days before the read-through.
What was it like working with the babies on Call The Midwife?
Jessica Raine: I noticed such a difference. I’m pretty inexperienced with handling babies and so at the beginning I was a little bit like, ‘Oh God! Don’t drop it!’ and then I felt this massive ease by the end. After three or four months I could just scoop them up and flip them around. It was really nice.
Were you surprised by how graphic the child birth scenes are?
Jessica Raine: I remember wanting it to be real and not prettify it, but not making it really gruesome. Just make it real and you’re going to wince.
Is there any similarity between yourself and your character?
Jessica Raine: It was a weird parallel experience because I was scared about taking on this role. I hadn’t done much filming before. Jenny’s entering this world where she doesn’t know what she’s doing, and I didn’t know what I was doing either. She’s also quite private as a character and doesn’t really want to talk about this big love in her life. I suppose I’m quite private in a similar way.
What was it like working with Miranda Hart?
Jessica Raine: She was wonderful to work with. We had a really lovely time with her. We formed a strong bond between us, the young nurses. It was a great experience and she is a wonderful actress.
What’s it been like working with this female cast?
Pam Ferris: There is an extraordinary atmosphere on the set. This is not anti-male, but you find that the noise level is a lot lower than it would be among a similar amount of male actors. So it’s a lot calmer on set, and it’s a lot quieter.
Jessica you will be in peoples’ living rooms every week. Do you worry about getting recognized and losing your anonymity?
Jessica Raine: It’s crossed my mind. I’m choosing just to ignore it for a while. We’ll see what happens.