Chances are you’ll know Miranda Hart as the clumsy, unlucky-in-love star of hit BBC1 sitcom Miranda… but she’s also charmed period drama lovers the world over (they love it across the pond too, don’t you know) as Chummy, a sweet, plummy-voiced and occasionally clumsy (some things never change) midwife in Sunday night sensation Call the Midwife.
We sat down with the star on set during swelteringly hot day in June – “Sweating in wool. That can be the title of your piece… Don’t say I don’t give you anything” – to talk Christmas 2013.
“I’ll be singing Oh Little Town of Bethlehem this afternoon, which will be fun. In June. In actual heat. This is our week of summer, you do realise,” says Hart.
Series two – which each week consistently drew around 9 million viewers to its gut-wrenching and heart-warming tales of life and loves in the East End – saw Chummy suddenly become the patient when her pregnancy ended in a complicated and difficult birth. Thankfully, the series concluded on a happy note, though, and we are now set to be reunited with Chummy in the show’s Christmas special as she adjusts to life with a newborn.
“Chummy is enjoying it,” says Hart. “I love the fact that Heidi [Thomas, the drama’s creator]’s written her as a very caring, loving mother and she’s really sort of enjoying that role…”
“She’s doing lots of housework and making soft furnishings. She obviously doesn’t do anything half heartedly so when she does something she does it properly. She’s making scatter cushions and blankets and, you know, sends her husband off with a little Tupperware box and perfectly cut up sandwiches. It’s really cute.”
Her new status as a mother means the 9 to 5 is out of the question – it is still 1959, remember. So Chummy’s ditching her red cardi and blue nurse’s frock in favour of some more casual attire.
“Apparently – I know nothing of fashion – patterns are back in, so actually this could be adorned in this day and age,” Hart tells us. “It’s quite fun having ‘mufti’, I’m calling it. Chummy’s even got a dress for a potential jazz club, if she should so desire.”
There will be no visits to jazz clubs for Chummy this Christmas, though, as the midwives’ festive celebrations are interrupted when an unexploded WW2 bomb is uncovered in the neighbourhood and everyone is evacuated to a rescue centre. Does Chummy come into her own when faced with the disaster?
“She tries to go and help make the teas and they say, ‘No, no, no. Just go and look after your child.’ So that all sort of throws her a bit. Then she decides that she needs more than just sitting about so she becomes Akela again and sorts the cubs out… That sort of becomes her mission in the episode.”
Call the Midwife won’t be the only time you’ll spot Miranda on the telly this Christmas. She’s starring alongside David Walliams, Julia McKenzie, Rob Brydon and Robbie Williams in Gangsta Granny (Boxing Day). And last year she premiered the third series of Miranda on Boxing Day, too. You could say she’s something of a Christmas institution….
“That’s ridiculous! Christmas is me and the Queen…,” says Hart. “I hadn’t thought of that. You’ve now made me very nervous. But it’s lovely to be on television, on BBC1 at Christmas is amazing. A childhood dream, really. I don’t like to think about it too much. You feel sort of Christmas-viewing pressure.”
Did she watch herself on TV at Christmas last year?
“No. I didn’t. [My family] all watched it and I left the room and went to have a bath. And then the next night I had the first episode of my series so I had another bath. That was awful because part of me was sort of wanting to listen downstairs and see if anyone was laughing. It was so nerve wracking.”
So it’s fair to say, for Miranda at least, Call the Midwife isn’t part of the Hart family’s Christmas traditions – “televisually it’s just all about Morcambe and Wise of course” – but what else is?
“It’s all fairly traditional,” says Hart. “But maybe that’s our unique way in itself. Stockings, sprouts, silly games, carol singing – Mum plays the piano. It’s all terribly Noel Coward!”
When it comes to presents, we know what Miranda wants for Christmas – she told the magazine that this year a subscription to Radio Times was top of her wish list. She’s a clever lady – but for Chummy’s stocking, Hart thinks that all she needs is “a big fat hug”.
“One of the things I love about Call the Midwife is the reminder of the joys of a simpler life with more community and less technology,” says Hart, “so I would be loath to give Chummy something like an iPad. She might get addicted to Fruit Ninja and ignore her gifts as a compassionate nurse.”
So is that sense of community, which is showcased in Call the Midwife’s story lines, something Hart would like to bring back?
“I’ve really realised how much I kind of hate technology in many ways and how we are not in a community anymore… We’re just on our screens and you see all these women in this community and you think ‘That’s how we should be living.'”
Once Christmas in Poplar has been and gone, the next series of Call the Midwife is hot on its heels. And this year’s series should hopefully feature a lot more of Chummy, who headed off abroad for much of series two – “The actress who plays her doesn’t need to do her own sitcom this year so therefore hopefully Chummy doesn’t need to go to Sierra Leone,” says Hart, who seems glad to have the time this year to completely focus on Call the Midwife and her beloved character.
“It’s great actually. Because at series three you could think, have I done this character? But no. Quite the opposite. I just really enjoy playing her again, putting the glasses back on. I love her so much. She’s brilliant.”
So does that mean we’ll be seeing Hart return if (and when) Call the Midwife is given the green light for series four?
“Oh yeah. I’d do Chummy until the end of my days. Love her.”
Call the Midwife returns on Christmas Day at 6:15pm on BBC1