Bright and full of festivities, with holly and tinsel everywhere – a “fabulous celebration”.
That’s how Helen George, who plays Nurse Trixie Franklin in BBC One’s Call The Midwife, describes the 2020 Christmas special of the much-loved period drama.
Since it first started in 2012, the series – which is written by Heidi Thomas (who is married to star Stephen McGann) – has become one of the channel’s most successful dramas ever, with its festive episodes often being the most-watched TV programme on Christmas Day.
One of the reasons viewers love it so much is the escapism it provides, transporting us back to the Sixties – what seems, to many, like a much simpler, kinder, more gentle age.
And as the Covid-19 pandemic continues, perhaps that’s something we need more than ever before.
Here, we tell you everything you need to know about the new episode – with the help of some of our favourite Call The Midwife stars.
A CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN
Last year, the cast headed to Scotland for the Christmas special, but this time the celebrations are all happening much nearer to the home.
And there are some very exciting scenes involving the circus (with Peter Davison starring as Mr Percival the Ringmaster, by the way) which has arrived in Poplar.
“Reggie [Daniel Laurie] and I make an excuse to go down there, to do a little bit of trade with them, because it is Christmas,” notes Cliff Parisi, who plays Fred Buckle.
“And we get to have a little bit of a preview which is fabulous. It’s brilliant, it’s like a proper circus. We’ve got tumblers, trapeze acts, horses… People are going to love it; it’s going to take them back, because do you remember when we used to have the circus on Christmas Day on TV?”
As for storylines, Parisi also teases there ends up being a “disaster at the circus and a bit of an emergency”.
He says: “Reggie goes missing, and Fred has a little bit of a flap.” Hopefully, all will be well in the end…
AN OLD FACE RETURNS
Ella Bruccoleri, who plays Sister Frances, reveals she gets to be involved in a “lovely” storyline this Christmas.
“There’s an old character that comes back that Shelagh [Laura Main] was really close to. And I get to see the connection between them,” says Bruccoleri.
“I haven’t really done many births so every birth storyline I get to do I kind of feel like I find my feet a little bit more.”
However, birth scenes have been made more difficult with the new Covid-19 filming restrictions, confides Bruccoleri.
“Now we don’t get to have any contact with the babies at all, in any scenes. So, it’s the mums that have to dress as us and stand in for those shots; they are wearing the full habits and stuff.
“And I guess [there will be] a lot more work with prosthetics this season, rather than real babies. But I think I’m going to really miss that, because one of the perks of the job was getting to handle all these cute little babies.”
TRIXIE REASSESSES HER LOVE LIFE
When it comes to Trixie’s Christmas storyline, it turns out someone decides to give her a subscription to a marriage service.
So, how does she react to that?
“I think she’s generally quite p***** off, to begin with!” says George, laughing.
“She’s coping perfectly fine and focusing on her career, so it’s a bit of a shock. And also, it’s like ripping the plaster off and going, ‘Oh God, is this what everybody’s thinking?! Am I left on the shelf? Is this awful? Everybody else has found a lover’, or whatever.
“But it’s ultimately quite a fun storyline for Christmas and I do get to speed date – the Call The Midwife equivalent of speed dates – with quite a few chaps.”
SISTER MONICA JOAN IS STRUGGLING
Sister Julienne is delighted by the circus coming to town, according to actress Jenny Agutter.
But she also has to deal with Sister Monica Joan [Judy Parfitt], who has dementia and manages to get herself into trouble.
“I think every Christmas she gets herself into trouble, so it’s not a surprise,” says Agutter.
“I mean, the truth is that Christmas, and winter, is always a difficult time for anyone who’s older. We’ve seen her frailty, and I think that’s a huge concern to Sister Julienne, to see how frail she is.”
THERE ARE CUTE FAMILY MOMENTS
McGann, who plays Dr Patrick Turner, shares that Heidi adored the circus as a little girl – which is where the inspiration for the Christmas special theme came from.
“I find that strand wonderfully moving, and we’ve all been quite taken aback by just how much fun that is,” says the actor, “There’s one sequence where I [Dr Turner] am with my two little girls at the circus, and it’s the best thing in the world.
“I haven’t seen these girls for months and months and months and months [because of Covid-19], and I miss them; they’re like surrogate family.
“The first day we were filming the circus arrived, and they were having such a great time. There’s a lot of time these kids have to stand by and do the boring stuff but when you’ve got the clowns and you’ve got the acrobats it’s a bit of a nicer day at the office!”
THE SPECIAL WILL BRING RELIEF FOR VIEWERS
Good news: We will be getting even more Call The Midwife, as series 19 is set to launch sometime in 2021.
Until then, Parfitt thinks that people will really appreciate this one new episode as, she quips, “everyone is sick to death of repeats, for a start”.
“I’m always constantly amazed at the amount of mail I get and the amount of people who stop me to say, ‘Is it coming back?’, and then being so happy when they hear it is,” continues the star.
“Call the Midwife touches something in people that I’ve never seen before. They feel they own it, in a way. I suppose they feel they’ve grown up with it over the last 10 years.”
- Watch Call The Midwife on BBC One on Christmas Day