Helen George in CALL THE MIDWIFE | ©2011 Neal Street Productions

Helen George in CALL THE MIDWIFE | ©2011 Neal Street Productions

The drama series CALL THE MIDWIFE was a huge success when it premiered earlier this year in the U.K., and now that it’s airing on PBS (Sundays at 8 PM in the Los Angeles market, check local listings), it’s captured devoted U.S. audiences as well. Based on the three-book series of memoirs of real midwife Jennifer Worth, CALL THE MIDWIFE follows the trials and travails of well-to-do Jennifer Lee (played by Jessica Raine), who becomes a midwife with a group run out of a convent in the slums of East London in the 1950s.

Jenny isn’t the only non-nun in the group of midwives. Another is Trixie Franklin, played by Helen George. Trixie takes her work with expectant mothers very seriously, but she’s otherwise extremely high-spirited and, certainly by the standards of both the era and the nuns, a little on the wild side.

Actress George has largely been a stage actress, but her other TV credits include the British series HOTEL BABYLON, THE DOCTORS and DARK MATTERS: TWISTED BUT TRUE; she was also in the recent remake of THE THREE MUSKETEERS. At an event arranged by PBS for the Television Critics Association, George talks about her vibrant period MIDWIFE.

ASSIGNMENT X: Were you aware of the CALL THE MIDWIFE books when you went up for the role of Trixie?

HELEN GEORGE: I’d heard about them, because they were such a success inEngland that, fantastically, we had a fan base waiting for us, because so many people have read the books. Just before the casting, I managed to read all three of the books. I read them on the tube and people must have thought there was something wrong with me, because I cried all the time, because they’re just so emotional and emotive, so I loved them.

AX: The Jenny Lee character doesn’t fit in because she’s not a nun and she’s from this upper-class background. Your Trixie seems more lively –

GEORGE: She’s a good-time girl. I mean, midwifery is her vocation and it’s something that she’s very passionate about, but at the same time, she likes to have downtime, she likes to have gossip with the girls, she likes boys and setting her friends up with boys and she loves a drink, so she’s a real good-time girl who wants to be Marilyn Monroe or something.

Bryony Hannah as Cynthia, Jessica Raine as Jenny and Helen George as Trixie in CALL THE MIDWIFE | ©2011 Neal Street Productions

Bryony Hannah as Cynthia, Jessica Raine as Jenny and Helen George as Trixie in CALL THE MIDWIFE | ©2011 Neal Street Productions

AX: How does Trixie feel about living amongst a group of nuns?

GEORGE: I think it’s such an unusual setting, that she should be surrounded by these nuns. It’s a funny one for her, but she deals with them.

AX: The birth scenes are depicted very realistically, which is to say with a lot of blood and bodily fluids. Is there anything in this that grossed you out at all?

GEORGE: [laughs] Well, to begin with, I suppose everything, but you very quickly get used to it. Even just going down the nether end of a lady was a strange thing to get used to, and just saying, “Hook your legs up and there you are in position,” but now it feels so natural, I really think I could do it [be a midwife] in real life [laughs].

AX: Is having to have another actress put her legs in your arms for the birthing position at all comparable to doing a love scene with a man, where you’ve got to discuss, “Now, I’m going to put my hand here …”

GEORGE: Well, it’s a completely different energy, but there’s definitely a sense of choreography about it. It’s definitely a sort of choreographed dance, albeit a strange one.

AX: How is it working with so many other women?

GEORGE: On paper, it could be a nightmare, but – it’s a cliché, but we get on so well and a lot of the time, we just laugh and laugh and we forget we’re at work, so we get on really well. There are so many fun characters.

AX: Have you had a reaction from your friends about the show?

GEORGE: I recently went to see my doctor and he couldn’t stop raving about the show and he absolutely loved the show, so I think if a doctor loves the show from a medical background, I hope we’re getting somewhere.

AX: So it’s very medically accurate?

GEORGE: Yeah, I think so.

AX: When you were coming up as an actress, did you envision yourself as the star of a successful TV series?

GEORGE: As a midwife [laughs]?

AX: Did you think you were going to be doing theatre or film, or …?

GEORGE: I started off in theatre, and I’ve always loved the Fifties, so for me, it was a perfect casting. I was so happy when I got the [MIDWIFE] scripts and it’s something that I’m really proud of and that I really hope lasts for a long time.

AX: Is there anything else you’d like to say about CALL THE MIDWIFE?

GEORGE: Enjoy it!


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Article: Exclusive Interview with CALL THE MIDWIFE actress Helen George



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