Call The Midwife screenwriter Heidi Thomas, 54, lives in England with her husband, actor Stephen McGann – who plays the role of Dr Turner – and their son, Dominic, 19.
Heidi has worked on the hit TV series since its inception, adapting the script for the first four seasons from a trilogy of memoirs written by Jennifer Worth, a midwife in London’s East End in the 1950s, who passed away in 2011 before the show began shooting.
Here she talks about her experiences on the show:
None of us could’ve predicted Call the Midwife’s success.
If we’d had any idea the show would keep going beyond the first season, we might have spread things out and saved some of Jennifer’s stories.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of material to inspire new plots. The early ’60s was a time of great change, and change feeds drama. We also get letters, calls and e-mails from retired midwives and women telling us their own childbirth stories from that era.
Most days, I’ll work at home rather than on set.
I catch up on e-mails, watch the uncut footage from the previous day’s filming and send over any notes, then get down to writing, often until 2am.
It’s lovely sharing the show with Stephen – a project this big takes over your life. And I miss his Dr Turner ’50s haircut when he grows it between seasons!
Stephen and I never discuss evolving plot lines.
He gets his script at the same time as the other actors do. When he has it, he’ll go off to the bedroom to read it alone, and I’ll be wondering what he’s thinking.
A well-told historical story can shed light on the way we live today.
Call the Midwife is about eternal themes – love, motherhood, faith, hope and despair. I think mothers in the ’50s and ’60s went through the same emotions as mothers today.
Often, we get touching letters from people who say an episode enabled them to have a conversation on something they couldn’t talk about before, like adoption. That’s humbling.
I have a sense of responsibility to the people who share the issues we cover. It’s these people I think of when I write. I don’t think about the millions of viewers, or the 197 countries it’s going out to – if I did, I’d never get a word on the page!
Every season brings new stories, challenges and triumphs.
At the beginning of season six, the team settles back into Poplar after their South African adventure in the Christmas Special.
They must grapple with the contradictions and opportunities of the early ’60s – the beacon of the pill, the lure of independence and the call to duty. But, time and again, in an age of change and danger, we’re reminded of the simple power of love.
Catch season six of Call the Midwife, on Sundays at 8pm on BBC First, DStv channel 119.