Comedienne Miranda Hart talks about turning to drama in BBC1’s new nostalgic series Call The Midwife…
Tell us about your character Chummy…
“She comes from a very upper-class background and she’s decided that her calling from God is to be a midwife. So she comes to the East End to join Nonnatus House, much to the horror of her Viceroy father and upper-crust mother.”
Is it true that Jennifer Worth, whose memoirs the series is based on, handpicked you for the role?
“Yes and it was a huge honour. Jennifer had written to me with a copy of the book saying, ‘I’ve been watching your sitcom and when I watch you I think of my friend Chummy.’ As soon as I read Chummy’s story I wrote back to say I really hope I get to play this part – she’s such an amazing character!”
Chummy seems like an unlikely person to be a midwife?
“Well, she can’t ride a bike for one thing, but despite her awkwardness, she’s a very compassionate person. I really enjoyed playing her and it was great being part of an ensemble cast. I just adore Judy Parfitt (Sister Monica Joan) and we’ve got into trouble corpsing a few times.”
Does Chummy learn to ride a bike?
“Well, I’m a bit of a cyclist so I was thinking, how on earth am I going to act not being able to ride a bike? Obviously the old saying goes – once you learn, you never forget. But being a good cyclist meant that I could wobble easily and was completely relaxed.”
Where did you film the East End exterior scenes?
“We filmed in Chatham docks and it was beautiful. Sometimes I felt like I was in a film cycling along the docks with a hundred extras. It’s filmed on such a lovely scale, they’ve done it beautifully.”
Did you enjoy doing playing a dramatic role for a change?
“I’ve always seen myself more as a comedy actress than as a stand-up. Comedy will always be my passion, but it would be amazing if I could have a career doing both. The drama gave me a bit of respite from the pressure of getting laughs so it was a joy to then go back to comedy writing.”
Call The Midwife screens on Sundays at 8pm on BBC1