Barbara Gilbert isn’t the new girl at Nonnatus anymore; the Call the Midwife character has an entire series under her vintage belt. But this will be her first Christmas in Poplar…
“I wasn’t in the last Christmas episode,” star Charlotte Ritchie reminds us. “They were phasing me in because I was new, so I got to enjoy the Christmas episode. It was nice to watch it without seeing myself in it!”
This year, though, she has a starring role in the festive instalment – and she’s feeling the pressure. “It feels like a huge deal,” Ritchie says.
“Christmas Day is the day for telly,” she adds. “We are a big telly family. We always watch telly all day on Christmas Day. It’s going to be weird… [and] very daunting.”
While Ritchie stresses about seeing herself on TV on 25th December, her fictional alter-ego Barbara Gilbert is getting rather upset about the big day.
“Barbara’s generally a bit unhappy because she gets homesick at Christmas,” Ritchie explains. “She’s not allowed to go home and that slightly dampens the Christmas spirit in her, but there’s a lovely family feeling at Nonnatus House by the end of it.”
And there’s plenty to distract her from her less-than-perfect festive period…
“They go out on a trip to central London on a big old bus. There’s snow. It’s so lovely,” she says. “There’s a lovely scene where we are all sat together watching telly. A television comes to Nonnatus House. It’s so exciting.”
Barbara also joins in when the BBC visits Poplar to film their low-key carol concert, and it was a storyline Ritchie especially enjoyed.
“My Granddad used to work for the BBC around the time this was set. He would have been working with people who worked with the same cameras. I never met him so it was nice to think that he was doing the same thing. My mum and uncle are really fascinated by that period so it was great to have those big lamps around and the recording experience.”
But, of course, it isn’t all carol singing and cosiness. This is Call the Midwife, after all.
“It’s such a jolly show in so many ways. It’ll be just gorgeous and happy and then suddenly you’re hit with something ridiculously serious. You’re like, ‘I thought this was going to be a tea cosy and actually it’s a hot kettle.’”
Come Christmas Day, “we’ll be crying and laughing in equal measure,” she warns…
Call the Midwife returns on Christmas Day at 7:30pm on BBC1