Fenella Woolgar plays Sister Hilda in Call The Midwife.
How did you find it joining Nonnatus House?
Surreal, freaky, quite frankly terrifying! Call the Midwife is a national treasure, so there is a lot to live up to. But you have to put those feelings aside, otherwise you’d get side-tracked by the wrong things. But it’s fabulous to join such an incredible team and such a well-loved programme. The cast has been amazing and very welcoming.
What has impressed you about the production?
The seriousness with which the birth scenes are taken. We have midwives on set to help us and talk us through each birth, which is fantastic. I’ve had kids, but I’ve learned lots from the midwives here. That’s taken really seriously. Terri Coates is completely brilliant. She is there if you need to know anything about midwifery. As an actor, you want to get the specific detail right.
Did you enjoy working with Miriam Margolyes?
Absolutely. I’m very fond of Miriam because on leaving drama school, I did my first ever job with her. We did The Cherry Orchard in York. She was very protective of me. Miriam is such a big personality, and she’s tremendous fun. She’s incredibly good value because she’s got a million and one anecdotes that are hilarious. We’ll let her tell you those! But she still takes the job really seriously, which is what you want.
The drama does not shy away from difficult subjects, does it?
No. It addresses all sorts of tricky areas. For instance, it focuses on the very early days of the welfare state, so there is an awful lot of social deprivation around.
What you are aware of Call The Midwife before you got this job?
You would have to be on Planet Zog not to be aware of Call The Midwife! My sister-in-law is a mega-fan – in fact, quite a few people I know are mega-fans. One Christmas, we were around at my sister-in-law’s house, and suddenly she shut the door and said, “You’ve all got to go now because this is my time to watch Call the Midwife”. Okay, thanks. Bye!
What do you think Call The Midwife teaches us?
You can be very lucky and go through life without tragedies hitting you, but that’s incredibly rare. So it’s wonderful to have a show that is amazingly positive and life affirming, but also deals with all of those everyday tragedies that people have within their own families. Regardless of where you’re from, we are all human and we all have those relationships and terrible things can happen to all of us. Call The Midwife gets in touch with the viewers’ empathy. I have to monitor how many episodes I watch, because it’s just a tear fest!
Do you have any nuns in your family?
Yes. I had a great aunt who was a nun. She was called Sister Mary Hilda. Spooky! Basically, when I got this job, someone was looking down on me!