Miranda Hart was a shoo-in for the role of Chummy. The late Jennifer Worth personally recommended her as “perfect” for the part of her aristocratic former colleague during her formative years as a midwife in the 1950s.
“The producers sent me the book and of course I went straight to the chapter where Chummy makes her entrance at Nonnatus House. I was really intrigued, thinking, ‘Who is this woman I apparently remind the writer of?’ and that was me immediately hooked.
“I really admire Chummy. It can’t have been easy to step out of her own world — that extreme upper-class background — to become a midwife in the east end. I read an article recently about the five things people are most likely to say before they die, and number two was: ‘I wish I had been able to be myself.‘ I’m sure there are still lots of people who think, ‘I wish I had said to my parents: actually, this is what I want to do with my life‘. So Chummy was extremely brave.”
For Hart, whose comic persona in Miranda is based on her hopelessness with men, there’s a particular satisfaction in playing the girl who gets the guy (Chummy married her adoring policeman at the end of series one).
“It’s good, isn’t it? Normally, I’m the one fawning over the man, but in Call the Midwife I’m the experienced woman. There’s a bit in the new series where the girls and I go to see South Pacific at the cinema. And during the love scene, Chummy leans down and whispers to her friends: ‘Yes girls, I know all about that.’ I love it that sweet Chummy gets there first!”
The world of Midwife, says Hart, is inspirational, particularly at a time when politicians are exercised anew by the notion of the “deserving” and the “undeserving poor”.
“The East Enders in Midwife are poor, but they’re one of the most hardworking communities,” she points out. “And the nuns and nurses have a vocation and a purpose. Which is one of the key things of being a human being.”