Bryony Hannah: Call the Midwife is old fashioned television in the best sense

The actress who plays meek midwife Cynthia talks Downton Abbey, Hollywood and the period drama's second Christmas special

Call the Midwife is becoming something of a Christmas institution.


The show returns for its second seasonal special this Christmas Day. But Bryony Hannah, the actress who plays timid midwife Cynthia, assures us there is no rivalry between them and Christmas’ alternative period drama Downton Abbey. “Oh I love Downton… There’s no need to compete because it’s such a thing of itself. But I just love it. I’ve loved it from the beginning.”

Unlike ITV’s Downton, which is set during the summer for the second year in a row, Call the Midwife is embracing the festive period. But don’t go thinking it’s all nativity plays and carols around the Christmas tree. The BBC1 drama has become known for tackling difficult issues, irrespective of the season. 

“It’s challenging for Christmas Day to show these issues,” says Bryony, of last year’s special which dealt with teenage pregnancy and the death of young children. “You are really torn in different directions… It feels old fashioned television in the best sense in that it’s entertaining and warm and lovely, but it kind of makes you think and it’s educational as well.”

With this year’s festive episode set to feature an unexploded WW2 bomb, it’s likely to be as hard-hitting as last year’s, if a little less upsetting – it’s airing at the family-friendly time of 6:15pm. 

So what’s Cynthia’s role in the drama? “She’s as always supporting everyone and being where she’s needed,” says Hannah.

“I think [the Christmas special]’s going to be really exiting,” she continues. “There’s been a power cut so it’s all quite dark and going into the unknown.

“They did this amazing shot… on this huge crane thing. It felt very Hollywood.”

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