"We really do cry at work on Call The Midwife – all of us!" Series creator Heidi Thomas reveals all about what's ahead for the nuns and midwives
Call the Midwife’s creator and writer Heidi Thomas (pictured) gives TV Times the exclusive lowdown on what’s in store for the residents of Nonnatus House for the rest of series six and beyond…
Sister Mary Cynthia’s mental health treatment
“I have loved writing Sister Mary Cynthia. Bryony Hannah is an extraordinary actress. Her performance in the later episodes of series six is just so pure and so true – it’s absolutely devastating. We have featured mental health stories before, but in 1962 it was extremely difficult to find the perfect treatment for any individual patient. Things were much more raw, not least because mental illness was even more of a taboo than it is now and many people did not receive the help they desperately needed.”
“There was a huge audience response to the story of baby Susan Mullucks and her family last year. I think it provoked the biggest and most emotional postbag we have ever had. I got to meet a number of Thalidomide survivors and their struggle did not end when they were babies. I wanted to reflect reality by showing how how hard it was for parents to raise a disabled child in a society that was not geared up to support them in any way.
“Susan’s mother Rhoda (Liz White), is going to have to fight for her right to an education, fight for her right to be accepted by others, fight for her right to achieve her potential. The road is hard, but we see the family pulling together and trying to find a way ahead.”
“Laura Main finding out that Shelagh was going to have a baby was one of my favourite moments ever – she literally ran up and down the car park outside her trailer, squealing! But then came the sinking realisation that not everything is going to be plain sailing in a pregnancy like Shelagh’s – she’s older, she’s been ill in the past, and she works too hard.
“Seeing Laura’s face when she heard that Shelagh was going to be admitted to hospital was heartbreaking. But not all miracles have a happy ending, and – however the journey concludes – it would be wrong not to acknowledge that.”
Wedding bells for Tom and Barbara?
“I’ve now written two marriage proposal scenes for Jack Ashton, who plays curate Tom Hereward: one proposing to Trixie, and one to Barbara. Barbara is the girl for him, though. He adores her even though she lacks glamour and sophistication, and she was sea-sick on his slacks in the Bay of Biscay. And Barbara doesn’t mind that Tom can be slightly slow on the uptake and smarms his hair back with all that Brylcreem.
“They are currently planning a long engagement, as they have no money for a big wedding, and are both devoted to their jobs as well as to each other. But who knows what will happen? Will they come up on the Premium Bonds?”
A chilly Christmas
“We made the most of last year’s golden South African Call the Midwife Christmas special – we already knew there would be no blue skies and no sunburn this year! We’ve been aware for a while that this series brings us up to the Big Freeze of 1962-63 – the coldest British winter for 300 years. Story details are still in development, but it was a legendary winter and will provide us with an amazing background for our Christmas visit to Nonnatus House.”
“Because we have an annual Christmas special, we have to make each series still cover a year in the life of the Nonnatus House family. I honestly can’t envisage us ever wanting to jump forward in time – we would miss out on too much social and medical development. Also, I’m not convinced the world is ready for Nurse Crane in flares and a glitter wig in the ’70s!
“Even though we now have the privilege of knowing we have three more series ahead of us, we still focus on just one series at a time, and put all of our energy into making that series the very best it can be. That’s the way we’ve always worked – putting the graft in, polishing the details, getting the very best stories we can find on screen. And crying at the things we discover. We really do cry at work on Call The Midwife – all of us.”
Call the Midwife continues on Sunday on BBC1 at 8pm