Una Stubbs on Call the Midwife: My sons would find it difficult to see me like that

The Sherlock actress talks meaty storylines, being shy on set and why Call the Midwife's female-centric set is "wonderful"

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Sherlock star Una Stubbs is swapping 221b Baker Street for Nonnatus House on Sunday, when the 77-year-old actress appears in Call the Midwife. 

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“I am a fan of the show so I snapped it up when they said would I like to do it,” says Stubbs, who admits to “definitely” having a cry while watching the period drama.  

“It’s beautifully written, beautifully done, beautifully acted. I think it’s a real class programme.” 

She won’t be donning a red cardi or cycling over cobbles like the Nonnatus nuns and midwives, but she has a tough, “meaty” storyline to deal with. Stubbs plays a “frail little old woman” looking after her ailing husband [played by the late David Ryall, who Stubbs remembers as “a marvellous actor”] 

“She puts him before absolutely everything,” Stubbs tells us. “She’s determined not to let him down. She’s unaware at first, but she’s not fit herself.” 

Stubbs never watches herself back on TV, but it’s not an episode she expects her family to sit down in front of this weekend, either. 

“I don’t think they will watch it,” she says. “When I was describing to my youngest son what it’s about he said, ‘Mum, I don’t think I’ll watch that.’ My sons would find it difficult to see me like that.” 

Stubbs found being a guest star on the hit BBC show “a little bit nerve-wracking. Although they did everything to make me feel at home I was still quite shy being the new person on the block.” But she is quick to describe regular stars Charlotte Ritchie and Bryony Hannah, who she shares most of her scenes with, as “little darlings.” 

Call the Midwife prides itself on being on a show about women, and written and directed by them, which Stubbs says is “fabulous.”

“You didn’t really notice [the lack of women working on TV shows] before because it wasn’t talked about that much. But it’s good to see so many women”. 

That’s something she doesn’t miss about the 1960s, a period of time Stubbs is glad Midwife is shining a light on: “You learn to shut up and just get on with it. There was very little assistance. With cooking, you had to make everything, there were no takeaways, no Marks and Spencers meals. If you wanted a dress, you made it.

“It teaches viewers how people coped and how stoic they were.”

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Call the Midwife continues on Sunday at 8:00pm on BBC1