Call the Midwife: Seeing Vanessa Redgrave play Jennifer Worth on screen is “very special”

"This little vignette at Christmas beautifully bookends the whole thing," says the show's creator Heidi Thomas

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Call the Midwife’s Christmas special is genuinely special this year, as it features a touching tribute to the woman who bought us Jenny, Trixie, Chummy and co in the first place. 

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Mature Jennifer Worth, whose memoirs inspired the TV show, is appearing on screen for the first time, played by Vanessa Redgave, who has provided her lilting tones to the show’s opening and closing moments since the start of series one. It’s especially fitting, in the first episode following Jenny Lee’s (Jessica Raine) departure at the end of series three. 

“It was fabulous,” said the show’s creator Heidi Thomas. “It felt like we’d come full circle, which was really lovely.”

“I wanted to include the mature Jennifer, who was a friend of mine, in this little vignette at Christmas – which beautifully bookends the whole thing.”

Worth sadly died before the first series made it onto BBC1, but her family are still actively involved in production. 

“We have a brilliant relationship with the Worth family,” says Thomas. “I will always run any pertinent storylines by them – not because we have to, but because I’m very fond of Philip, Jennifer’s widower – and they actually lent us Jennifer’s jewellery – her pearls and her rings – and the chair that she used to sit in to write her Christmas cards.” 

“It was a mini-plot. It’s a just a lovely thing,” Thomas continues. “We reconstructed this sitting room and we had Jennifer’s chair and Vanessa wore Jennifer’s pearls. She had these very distinctive rings with sort of dark opals surrounded by sapphires on one hand and diamonds on the others.”

“I think Jennifer herself was interesting because she wasn’t possessive over the books. She realised that I would have to do a lot of work to make it in to drama. But then what happened was, because she died in such an untimely manner, we made a point of making her daughters and widower very welcome on set. And they’ve become a sort of fixture now.”

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Call the Midwife returns on Christmas Day at 9:00pm on BBC1