Jessica Raine – who shot to fame as Jenny Lee in Call the Midwife – is, on the quiet, slowly getting steeped in Doctor Who. “I know! The Tardis is following me,” she laughs. Not only is she playing the programme’s original producer Verity Lambert in BBC2’s forthcoming special, An Adventure in Space and Time, but last summer she also filmed Hide, an episode only now getting its debut airing on BBC1 (Saturday 20 April).
When we met back in February, I flashed in front of her that week’s Radio Times. She’s on the cover. “Oh my God, that’s really surprising,” she coos. “I wanna read it now. We can’t do the interview!” This was already her second RT cover of 2013, and she’s had a third since February. She kindly autographs an issue for my parents – huge Midwife fans – but declines my offer of a copy for herself. “I’m sure my mum and dad have got one.”
We’re at BBC Television Centre a few weeks before its closure, on the set of An Adventure… – in fifth-floor offices mocked up to look like the 1960s. Raine herself has just come from costume/make-up in full Verity Lambert guise. Our conversation about that role will have to wait until a later date, but I ask her about Hide.
“It’s set in the 70s,” she says. “I’m slowly clawing my way up through time – the 50s [Midwife], 60s [An Adventure…] and I wouldn’t mind skipping the 80s.” We both agree we’d all like to skip that decade and that she wouldn’t like the hairdos. “Yeah, I’m not sure I could pull that off!” she cackles.
She admits the filming on Hide feels “a long time ago now”. It’s a ghost story set in an abandoned mansion on a desolate moor, where a professor, Major Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott) is investigating a spectre known as the Witch of the Well. Raine plays his assistant Emma Grayling – “an emotional psychic. She can feel what other people are feeling all the time, which is quite painful. It’s got a haunted house feel to it – she can feel the presence in the house.”
Hide is an especially eerie episode, with a touch or two of The Stone Tape, Nigel Kneale’s classic chiller, first shown on BBC2, Christmas Day 1972. “It is a spooky one,” agrees Raine. “And we filmed it in this incredible National Trust house, just outside Wales.” She says the building (Tyntesfield in Wraxall, near Bristol) had a “really funny feel”, which helped their performances. “The lights were dimmed down and I remember going off for a little wander – which I’m sure isn’t allowed, but I just can’t resist it. It’s like going into territory you’re not meant to.”
Hide has a minuscule cast: the two time travellers, the two ghost hunters and whatever the spectres turn out to be. Raine immediately bonded with Jenna-Louise Coleman (Clara). “She’s fantastic. I think this was first episode Jenna filmed.” It was, apart from her cameo scenes as Oswin in Asylum of the Daleks. “So we both felt quite like newbies together, which was really lovely. And we’ve got some mutual friends as well.”
She was “very comfortable” working with Matt Smith. “I’ve known Matt from around and about,” and they’d worked together briefly before on a reading of Simon Stevens’s play, Punk Rock. She reckons the acting world is “a very incestuous industry where you just go, ‘Oh, you know them? I know them too.’ You just end up hanging out and having a nice time together.”
Apart from the role that rocketed her to stardom, Jessica Raine has done very little telly. For now, her fans must forget the midwife. Meet a cardy-wearing psychic from 1974 – and then get ready for her playing one of the most important women in the history of television.