Helen George reveals all about filming in South Africa for the Call the Midwife Christmas Special

Call the Midwife’s Christmas episodes are always full of snow and tinsel, but this year’s very special feature-length festive instalment is taking the residents of Nonnatus House far away from their usual haunts in East London as they travel to South Africa to help a struggling hospital.

TV Times caught up with Helen George, who plays midwife Trixie, to find out more…

What can you tell us about the Call the Midwife Christmas special?
“Well we all get summoned to help on a mission hospital in South Africa. They see segregation, what poorer mothers are going through with their birth and the fact that they have to travel for miles on foot to even get to be seen.”

Does it feel Christmassey?
“Yes because we have Christmas before we go so you get the best of both worlds because you get the lovely Christmas Day and then we all travel out. It is different for the audience though because they will be expecting snowy, cosy Nonnatus House when actually it is completely far from that. These people are taken out of their comfort zones and Trixie and Barbara even share their hut together with spiders and all these tropical things!”

What was your biggest challenge out there?
“My birth stuff. Trixie does her first caesarean, which is scary, because the doctor isn’t around, and it is a matter of life and death. What is enjoyable is that you really see Trixie taking in the medical side of things, even though she is already experienced, she tries to learn and grow.”

What was it like to film?
“It was amazing, I love all of that stuff because it is such a challenge and we have done so many births in Call the Midwife, and that doesn’t ever feel easy, but it was nice to do something different and to learn about using the scalpel. I was trawling through Caesareans on YouTube and it is not the prettiest of things!”

Sinead Cusack guest stars as Dr Myra Fitzsimmons, the doctor in charge of the hospital. How does she react to the team’s arrival?
“She is quite cold to begin with because she has been there for so long and then we come along all jolly hockey sticks trying to make things better and she is like, ‘Oh go away please!’ But by the end, they have been ingratiated into the community. Sinead is fantastic though; it was so brilliant that she came in to do it. She is such a classy actress.”

Did you enjoy filming in South Africa?
“Oh it was such an incredible place to film in. A lot of shots are going to be quite cinematic because the landscape is just so vast that it becomes another character. We had an amazing time and we saw so many things because on our weekends off, we would go out on boats and to vineyards and on safari. We’d be like, ‘Ooh, there’s a zebra!’”

Call the Midwife Christmas Special airs on BBC1 on Christmas Day at 8pm.