Laura Main on Christmas specials, wedding dresses and saying goodbye to Sister Bernadette

"It’s all change. I’m no longer at Nonnatus House – I've got little digs that I live in. A new life"


Laura Main’s character in Call the Midwife has undergone something of a transformation. 


Gone is the nun’s habit, the morning prayers and her role as a midwife. Even her name isn’t the same anymore. “Initially when I got the script I was looking for Sister Bernadette’s lines,” Main tells us.

Last series we saw timid Sister Bernadette find love in the arms of Poplar GP Dr Turner and make the monumental decision to leave the Order. She’s packed her bags, departed Nonnatus House and now, she’s known as Shelagh. 

“It’s all change. I’m no longer at Nonnatus House – I’ve got little digs that I live in. A new life,” says Main.

And it’s not just her first name which is changing… This year’s Call the Midwife Christmas special sees Shelagh poised to become Mrs Turner as her and the Doc prepare to say ‘I do’. 

“There’s a wedding to plan and to prepare for. [The Christmas special] is kind of like a bridging gap really because she’s not happily married yet.”

For Shelagh and Dr Turner’s big day, it’s not about big guest lists, centre pieces and tiers upon tiers of Victoria sponge. (Sadly. You know how much those nuns love cake…)

“[She’s] sort of preparing in a very quiet way. Not wanting to draw attention to herself… She looks different, but, you know, she is the same person at the end of the day and so she wants a simple, quiet affair.”

“I think it’s because she doesn’t want to draw attention to herself,” Main tells us. “She feels uncomfortable about, not the decision that she’s made, but how that may have been perceived by others.” 

So it’s fair to say Shelagh is definitely not at risk of turning into a bridezilla. In fact, her impending nuptials are perhaps more troubling than exciting for the former midwife. 

“She’s a little bit lost,” says Main, “because, as I say, she’s not happily married but she’s also not one of the girls. She’s not one of the nuns. She’s not doing her work. She’s not being a midwife. There’s a lot going on and there’s not maybe the support that she’s had before.” Those who were supporting her before – namely Sister Julienne, Jenny, Trixie, Cynthia and co – are, Main reveals, very detached from Shelagh’s new life: “She doesn’t want to have a big affair, so she hasn’t invited them [to the wedding].”

So a small guest list it is. But when it comes to the dress? 

“She’s quite a simple, modest person and I think that’s reflected in her choice. I wouldn’t want to give away too many details about the dress. It’s got to be a surprise, hasn’t it?!”

Laura assures us that she’ll be sitting down in Aberdeen to watch this year’s Christmas special – with her parents who are determined to avoid any spoilers about Shelagh’s plot lines – just like last year. 

“It’s the time of year that you’re guaranteed to be with family so it was nice to be able to watch it with them [last year],” says Main. “To be in something that gets a Christmas special, it’s an honour isn’t it…”

Call the Midwife returns on Christmas Day at 6:15pm on BBC1