Call the Midwife is a BBC period drama series starring Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, Cliff Parisi, Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris and Judy Parfitt. It was created by Heidi Thomas based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth and set in east London in the 1950s. The first series of six episodes premiered in the UK on 15 January 2012. The series is produced by Neal Street Productions, a production company founded and owned by the film director and producer Sam Mendes, Call the Midwife Executive Producer Pippa Harris and Caro Newling. Call the Midwife achieved very high ratings in its first series, making it the most successful new drama series on BBC One since 2001. A second series of eight episodes aired in the UK in early 2013. Ratings remained exceptionally high, achieving a consolidated series average of 10.47 million viewers.
The autumn 2012 PBS broadcast of the first series of Call the Midwife in the United States received wide critical acclaim, earning a Metacritic score of 8.0. The Wall Street Journal declared that "this immensely absorbing drama is worth any trouble it takes to catch up with its singular pleasures", while The Washington Post stated that "the cast is marvellous, the gritty, post-war set pieces are meticulously recreated". TV Guide called the series "a delight to watch", while the San Francisco Chronicle described it as "sentimental, poignant and often heartbreaking".
On 11 February 2013, Ben Stephenson, BBC Controller for Drama, announced that he had commissioned a 2013 Christmas special, and a third series of eight episodes to air in 2014.
The plot follows newly qualified midwife Jenny Lee and the work of midwives and the nuns of Nonnatus House, a nursing convent, part of an Anglican religious order, coping with the medical problems in the deprived Poplar district of East London in the 1950s. The Sisters and midwives carry out many nursing duties across the community. However, with between 80 and 100 babies being born each month in Poplar alone, the primary work is to help bring safe childbirth to women in the area and to look after their countless newborns.
Nurse Jenny Lee arrives at Nonnatus House in 1957, at the age of 22, completely unaware of the world she is about to enter. Believing she's accepted a job with a small private hospital, it comes as somewhat of a surprise to Jenny to find she's moving into a convent. Furthermore, the deprivation of the East End is a huge culture shock for the young woman who has enjoyed a privileged upbringing in the home counties, and spent time in Paris before training as a nurse. However, although initially shocked by the conditions in which her patients live, Jenny comes to accept the material limitations of the world in which she works, and to love the people who must live there. She went to London to escape her forbidden love to married man, Gerald. Her best friend Jimmy arrives and although he makes her feel more at ease he also makes things more complicated by revealing that he's in love with her. She turns him down and they remain friends. She becomes good friends with all of her fellow colleagues and patients and always tries to help those around her. Towards the end of season 2 she starts dating Alec, a friend of Jimmy's.
- Miranda Hart as Nurse "Chummy" Browne (Camilla Fortescue-Cholmeley-Browne), later "Chummy" Noakes.
Camilla Cholmeley-Browne, otherwise known as Chummy, is the daughter of a prominent family who has found her way into nursing and midwifery by a circuitous route. Eternally good-humoured and monumentally kind, Chummy is crippled by lack of self-confidence. Her great height and physical clumsiness plays its part, but a loveless childhood spent in boarding schools has made the greater impact. An adept midwife, she is hampered by acute shyness and - perhaps more crucially – a complete inability to ride a bike. Chummy soon wins the hearts of her colleagues, but her struggle for self-belief always threatens to capsize her. By the end of season 1 after a string of dates she marries PC Peter Noakes. In season 2 Chummy applies for a place as a CMS missionary in Sierra Leone, Africa. She gets accepted, and she and Peter move to Africa for six months. Upon their return Chummy reveals that she is pregnant, much to the delight of her fellow nurses. In the final episode Chummy goes into labour, and despite complications she gives birth to a son, Fred. Chummy once stated that she had never been happier than when she was at Nonnatus House.
- Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne.
Sister Julienne is the chief nun and midwife at Nonnatus House. Deeply religious, she is also profoundly practical and confers dignity on her patients through her sensitive, non-judgmental approach. She is often called upon to mediate between her fellow sisters when they quarrel - this is an almost exclusively female world, and her tact and gentleness are essential to its happiness. Sister Julienne is the wisest midwife and always offers comfort and tries to help the others, mostly Jenny, Jane and Sister Bernadette.
- Pam Ferris as Sister Evangelina.
Sister Evangelina is the only one of the sisters who comes from the same tough, uncompromising background as the community they serve. Physically vigorous, she has a robust sense of humour. Her energy and drive make her extraordinarily effective at her job. However, she does not suffer fools gladly, and her blunt speech often offends. She has a particularly contentious relationship with the aristocratic Sister Monica Joan, who often provokes her to breaking point.
- Judy Parfitt as Sister Monica Joan
Born into a leading titled family, Sister Monica Joan was one of the first women in Britain to qualify as a midwife. In the closing years of the 19th century, this was seen as a radical act. Her additional decision to become a nun scandalised her relatives, who never came to terms with her life choices. She dedicated her entire adult life to providing midwifery services to the poor of the East End. Now in her 90s, Sister Monica Joan has retired from practice, but lives full-time at Nonnatus House, cared for by her fellow sisters. She has an eccentric, mercurial personality, and is obsessed with cake, astrology and knitting, in no particular order. She has a very different nature from Sister Evangelina's, and misses no opportunity to bait her. It is never entirely clear how much of Sister Monica Joan's eccentricity is due to the frailty of age, or (as Jenny suspects) sheer wilful naughtiness.
- Helen George as Nurse Beatrix "Trixie" Franklin
Nurse Beatrix Franklin, otherwise known as Trixie, is a bright, glamorous girl in her mid-twenties who is already living and working at Nonnatus House when Jenny arrives. All fully fashioned nylons and lush red lipstick with platinum-blonde hair. Trixie loves jazz and dancing, smokes Sobranie cigarettes and is a bit of a flirt. She has a much more outgoing disposition than Jenny, but the two share the sense of adventure in their work and become firm pals. Trixie loves nothing more than gossiping with her fellow colleagues and is quite nosy when it comes to other people's business. She occasionally comes across as a bit rude but she means no harm by it. When it comes to her friends she takes great pleasure in teasing them about what is going on in their lives. She can be caring to her patients, and is encouraging at hopeless times. She is light and carefree, and often tries to get Sister Bernadette to flirt with Dr. Turner, who displays hints of affection for her..
- Bryony Hannah as Nurse Cynthia Miller
Nurse Cynthia Miller, like Trixie, is also a resident at Nonnatus House when Jenny appears. Caring, stoical, and intelligent, she finds her midwifery work both challenging and rewarding, a highly desirable alternative to the dull domesticity that would otherwise be her only option. Quiet and sensitive, and also in her early twenties, Cynthia becomes Jenny's confidante and lifelong friend. Cynthia is the most sensitive of the young midwives and takes some of her patients' stories quite personally, and gets very emotionally involved. In series 2, when a child she delivers dies, Cynthia nearly has a breakdown but recovers with the help of Sister Julienne.
- Laura Main as Sister Bernadette (later Shelagh)
Sister Bernadette is still in her early 30s - the closest in age to Jenny and the other secular midwives. She is the most educated of the nuns and is always giving the nurses advice and teaching them lessons. A consummate professional, she has a fresh, uncomplicated approach to her work that means she connects well with Jenny and her other colleagues. In one episode, she is shown to put her hair down and take her glasses off, expressing the desire to be free and flirtatious like Trixie. In series 2, her connections with the secular become a challenge to her life and vocation. In the final episode of season 2, Sister Bernadette, who is now known by the name of Shelagh, becomes engaged to Dr. Patrick Turner.
- Cliff Parisi as Fred
Fred is the handyman at Nonnatus house. He is friends with all of the midwives and often gives them help and advice. He's always got a new money making scheme under his belt but none of them are ever much good. He is dad to Dolly and grandfather to Anthony and Samantha.
- Stephen McGann as Dr Patrick Turner
Patrick is the resident doctor in Poplar. He works closely with the midwives helping at clinics, deliveries and at the birthing hospital. He is a widower and father to Timothy. In season 2 he becomes engaged to Shelagh.
- Ben Caplan as PC Peter Noakes
Peter is a Police Constable in Poplar. We first meet him in season 1 when he takes a shine to Chummy. Throughout the series they go on a string of dates and end up marrying in the final episode. In series 2 he and Chummy have a baby, Fred.
- George Rainsford as James "Jimmy" Wilson
Jimmy is an old friend of Jenny's. In season 1 Jimmy is madly in love with Jenny, even though she is in love with somebody else. Jimmy soon realizes this and leaves her be. In series 2 however the tables are turned, when Jimmy returns having got a job on the council. Jenny's head is instantly turned, but unfortunately she discovers that Jimmy is engaged to Francine, whom Jenny met at the antenatal clinic. Jimmy and Francine then marry and have a baby, Caroline.
- Max Macmillan as Timothy Turner
Timothy is the son of Dr. Patrick Turner. He is a bright, inquisitive young boy who always manages to get himself into a bit of trouble. His mother died when he was young so he desperately craves the attention of his father. He is however quite independent and can look after himself. He develops a close relationship with Sister Bernadette, who later becomes engaged to his father.
- Dorothy Atkinson as Jane Sutton
Jane is the medical orderly at Nonnatus house. We first meet her when she arrives to fill in for Chummy whilst she is in Africa. Jane was very shy and didn't talk unless it was necessary. We later find out the reason for her being shy; her parents sent her to an asylum when she was young, leaving her with no self-esteem. Throughout the series she grows in confidence and makes friends with her fellow nurses. She also finds love in the shape of Reverend Thornton Applebee-Thornton.