Laura Main plays Shelagh Turner in Call The Midwife.
What happens to Shelagh during this season?
There are two major things for Shelagh throughout this series, and both of them happen quite early on. One is that the Turners employ a secretary, Miss Higgins, played by the brilliant Georgie Glen. That’s a great help to the family. It allows Shelagh to do a bit more of the nursing work.
What is her other principal plot?
You’ve also got the storyline in the Christmas episode where we meet some orphans that have come from China and have been abandoned. They’ve all got homes to go to, apart from this one little girl. The father of her potential adoptive parents has tuberculosis, so they can’t take her for a year. Shelagh is really drawn to her and welcomes her into their home. So the Turner home is a bit bigger and busier this year. That’s another reason to be grateful for the assistance of Miss Higgins. So Shelagh is a mum to another little person, maybe just temporarily, and also working as a nurse a lot more this series.
If Shelagh were a real person, do you think you would be friends with her?
I think I would like Shelagh in real life. I certainly admire her. She struggles with a lot, and she’s incredibly giving of her time. She’s got a huge family, and she’s amazingly dedicated to her work as well. She’s actually the only one of these women who has both of those things in her life. She’s got a very full, very busy life, and for the main part she copes with that really well. So I’m impressed with her energy and her can-do attitude.
What has Call The Midwife taught you?
The main thing I’ve learned from playing a nurse and midwife is thinking of others. When you play a character, it is infectious. It does rub off on you. It’s taught me to think more about putting other people’s needs ahead of your own.
Do you enjoy filming with babies?
Yes. In this series, we have had a baby Teddy who has taken to filming really well. He is constantly exploring. I spend a lot of time just hanging out with him. You feel a bit naughty as an actor. You’re supposed to be standing on your mark ready to film. But I just do whatever baby Teddy wants to do – he wants to look at this and he wants to look at that. And then when I know we are just about to shoot, I get myself back in position and off we go.
Do you also get pleasure from acting with Shelagh’s older children?
Yes. One of the things I have really enjoyed this series is working with the children. Alice is a little bit older this year, and we’ve also got May, who is a similar age. We are actually properly filming with them and trying to get performances out of them. I spend a lot of time doing what an assistant director does. I muck in. I’ll be standing there trying to get certain reactions from the children or explaining, “I can’t stand there, so you look at this person for your eye line”.
How do you help put the children at ease?
I’ve got a really good trick – I sing a nursery rhyme. I’ll be doing a round of Row Your Boat, so we are all singing away like it’s this great place to be. They don’t cry then. That’s my top tip! It’s very rewarding when you know you’ve captured something great on screen because of what the girls are doing. I get really involved in that – I actually get great satisfaction out of it.
Pictured: Shelagh Turner (Laura Main), Dr Patrick Turner (Stephen McGann)