Ann Mitchell – best known as EastEnders' Cora Cross - guests in this week's Call the Midwife as Nurse Valerie Dyer's gran, Elsie. Here she tells us more about that and whether she'll be back as Cora
EastEnders star Ann Mitchell reveals if she’ll return to the soap as Cora and all about her guest role in Call the Midwife…
Are we likely to see you return to EastEnders as Cora?
Ann Mitchell: “I think so, yes. I love playing Cora, she’s quite feisty and doesn’t give a damn. I often get people coming up to me in the street asking about Cora and sometimes about Dolly Rawlins, who I played in [1983 drama] Widows. Sometimes, if you’re in a soap, the public like to insult you over your character. But I’ve never had that. I think people like Cora because she’s on Max’s case all the time!”
What can you tell us about your character and how she comes into Call the Midwife?
AM: “Elsie’s the grandmother of Nurse Valerie Dyer (Jennifer Kirby). She’s a widow who’s lived in Poplar all her life and is waiting to be re-housed. Elsie’s pretty fiery, strong and certain of many things but she’s also very gentle. She’s suffering with a boil on her thigh and Valerie comes to treat her.”
What’s Elsie’s relationship like with Valerie?
AM: “Valerie’s the apple of Elsie’s eye – she has the greatest love for her granddaughter and she’s so proud of what she’s attained and how she’s moved forward in life. We definitely see their relationship change and develop. It’s a journey for both of them. We will see a different side to Elsie but I don’t want to spoil anything…”
What are your own memories of the 1960s?
AM: “I actually grew up in Stepney Green, near Poplar, in London’s East End. I was at drama school at the start of the 1960s, which is also when my eldest son, Sean, was born. Filming Call the Midwife brought back enormous memories of what it was like for young mums in the East End back then. At times it was very sad. It’s really fascinating to see the difference from where we’ve come to where we are now… and how, in some ways, we’re going backwards!”
Have you always been a fan of Call the Midwife?
AM: “Yes – I’ve always been desperate to play a nun! I think it’s phenomenal how the show tackles difficult issues with enormous compassion and it never seems to come down on one side or the other – it asks viewers to make up their own minds and it gets people talking. It’s the humanity explored in Call the Midwife that really captures audiences, in a world that’s less kind.”
You turn 80 this year. How are you feeling about that?
AM: “On the one hand, I’m very happy to have survived to this age, so I feel very celebratory about it. But I also hope that the acting profession won’t suddenly regard me as some little old woman just sitting in the corner or asking if anyone wants a cup of tea!”
Call the Midwife continues on Sundays at 8pm on BBC1.
INTERVIEW BY CAREN CLARK