Call the Midwife is back on our screens, and Trixie is back at Nonnatus House, reuniting with Val, Lucille, Phyllis and all our familiar favourites.
But there are some major new characters arriving too, with Miriam Margolyes starring as Sister Mildred and two new midwives joining the team in Poplar. And, as ever, the drama has an impressive line-up of guest stars for every episode…
Meet all the characters, and the actors who play them, below…
Helen George plays Nurse Trixie Franklin
Who is Nurse Trixie Franklin? Trixie is a much-loved and extremely capable midwife. Following her battle with alcoholism and her relapse during the last series, Trixie went to visit her godmother in the Italian village of Portofino to recover. But she’s back in Poplar for series eight, arriving just in time for Christmas.
What else has Helen George been in? Helen George joined Call the Midwife right at the very beginning. She has appeared in Red Dwarf, Doctors and Hotel Babylon, and in 2015 she starred in Strictly Come Dancing where she waltzed her way to sixth place with Aljaz Skorjanec.
Helen actually fell in love on the set of Call the Midwife and began dating her co-star Jack Ashton, who played Reverend Tom until the end of series seven: she gave birth to their daughter, Wren, in September 2017.
Who is Nurse Lucille Anderson? Originally from Jamaica, Lucille left her family behind and travelled alone to England in 1960 to train as a nurse, becoming the first West Indian midwife ever to join Nonnatus House. That was a year ago now, and she has gained a reputation as a talented and popular midwife, with an open heart and a sense of humour. This series, there are rumours of a love interest…
What else has Leonie Elliott been in? Aside from Call the Midwife, Leonie Elliott is best known for her role in Black Mirror episode Hated in the Nation, where she played Fiona, and for playing Hollie in recent BBC special Killed by My Debt. She has also appeared in Casualty, Boogie Man and Damned, and in 2015 she featured in Lenny Henry’s BBC comedy drama Danny and the Human Zoo. As a child actress she appeared on stage in The Lion King and Annie.
Who is Nurse Valerie Dyer? Val is a Poplar native and grew up in the East End. She previously served in the army as a nurse, before returning home to work as a barmaid – and then deciding to become a midwife. Valerie is extremely dedicated to her work and to the women who she helps. In her free time, she teaches a baby ballet class.
What else has Jennifer Kirby been in? Jennifer Kirby made her TV breakthrough in Call the Midwife, but she also had an impressive stage career with the Royal Shakespeare Company before joining the BBC1 drama.
Jenny Agutter plays Sister Julienne
Who is Sister Julienne? Kind-hearted and softly-spoken Sister Julienne is the boss at Nonnatus House. She is highly respected by her team of midwives.
What else has Jenny Agutter been in? Jenny Agutter OBE began her career as a child actress in 1964 in East of Sudan, followed by Star! and The Railway Children – which became a classic movie. She went on to appear in An American Werewolf In London and Logan’s Run, and won an Emmy for her role in The Snow Goose in 1971. She has also picked up a Bafta for playing Jill Mason in the 1977 film Equus. Having quit Hollywood in the 1990s, she moved home to Britain and appeared in The Railway Children again – this time as the mother. In the past few years she has popped up in Monday Monday, Queen of the Desert, and The Invisibles, recently starring in the movie Sometimes Always Never alongside Bill Nighy.
Who is Sister Mildred? Described as “a forthright and indefatigable sister from the Order,” Sister Mildred is a bit of an unlikely nun. She arrives at Nonnatus House at Christmastime with four Chinese child refugees in tow from her trip to Hong Kong, who she is taking to the Mother House’s orphanage to meet their adoptive parents. Sister Mildred has a big personality and a sense of humour, and is also extremely chatty.
What else has Miriam Margolyes been in? You may recognise her as Professor Sprout from the Harry Potter movies, but Miriam Margolyes has been in so many films and TV shows that you’re bound to have seen her in something. She won a Bafta for her role in The Age of Innocence in 1993, and since then has starred in Bucket, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Trollied, Rake, and Bottersnikes & Gumbles. On the stage, she starred in the acclaimed I’ll Eat You Last, and will soon be taking on The Lady in the Van for a production in Melbourne.
NEWCOMER: Ella Bruccoleri plays Sister Frances
Who is Sister Frances? Sister Frances is a young nun who has only recently joined the Order as a “postulant” – i.e., when we meet her she is seeking admission into the nuns’ religious order. Having taken a vow of obedience, she is sent to serve god as a midwife at Nonnatus House.
Speaking on set, Bruccoleri says: “I start out as postulant and then we see her take her vows and enter the religious life. She’s from up North. She’s an innocent really. She’s a bit clumsy and a bit gawky and doesn’t really know what the right things to say are and when but she is driven by love.”Sister Frances doesn’t really know what she is doing but she’s trying very hard. She’s completely new to the whole thing.”
Explaining why her character is so keen to become a nun, she tells us: “She was brought up in a religious family, but she genuinely has a huge need to help other people and that’s why she wanted to be a nun in the community serving others as opposed to just praying and reflecting. She really just loves people.”
That said, Sister Frances is “terrified” about going to Poplar – worried about this “completely new, unknown situation” and whether she will fit in or be able to do the job.
Unfortunately for Sister Frances, her lack of experience does make her a liability when she arrives at Nonnatus House.
“Certain people are not too happy that I am moving to a community where I have to suddenly have quite an active role, particularly within the nursing side of things, but I don’t really know what I’m doing,” she says. “So I a little bit of a dead weight and not very helpful. But I’m learning as I go. She’s a little bit shocked because Poplar is so different from what she is used to.”
What else has Ella Bruccoleri been in? The actress has actually already played a nun, in an episode of The Last Kingdom. She has also appeared in the TV series Genius, but is a relative newcomer to the acting world, having graduated from drama school in 2017. “This is crazy for me because it’s quite early on in my career,” Bruccoleri says.
NEWCOMER: Fenella Woolgar plays Sister Hilda
Who is Sister Hilda? This newcomer to Call the Midwife also arrives from the Order’s mother house, and has been described as a “jump-in kind of person” who is already familiar with the East End. She and Sister Frances are sent to become midwives at the understaffed Nonnatus House.
“Sister Hilda is older and more experienced,” Woolgar said. “She was in the WAAF during the war so I think that probably led to some of those decisions because by the end of the war she had joined and obviously during the war you see some horrendous things. Also, she has been a nurse before.
“She is quite jolly and out there and enthusiastic and wants to help.”
What else has Fenella Woolgar been in? The actress first rose to attention in Stephen Fry’s film Bright Young Things. Her other credits include Vera Drake, Mr Turner, and Scoop – and in 2008 she played Agatha Christie in Doctor Who. Recent TV roles have included Alison Scotlock in Home Fires, Lady Repton in Harlots, and Catiche Kuragina in War & Peace.
Laura Main plays Shelagh Turner
Who is Shelagh Turner? Formerly a nun and a midwife, Shelagh Turner (once known as Sister Bernadette) is now married with three kids. Her husband, Dr Turner, is GP to the people of Poplar, and Shelagh continues to work closely with Nonnatus House – helping out at the doctor’s surgery and stepping in to lend a hand when the midwives need help.
What else has Laura Main been in? Scottish actress Laura Main first appeared on the stage at the age of 11 in a production of The Sound of Music. Her career has mainly been in theatre, but she featured as DC Alison Bain in ITV’s Murder City and played Rebecca Howlett in TV mini-series The Mill.
Stephen McGann plays Dr Patrick Turner
Who is Dr Patrick Turner? A tireless local GP, Dr Turner adores his job and will work himself into the ground. He is also a loving husband and father.
What else has Stephen McGann been in? In real life, Stephen McGann is actually married to Call the Midwife creator and screenwriter Heidi Thomas, and is the brother of Doctor Who actor Paul McGann. Like Dr Turner, he’s a man of science, having studied for a Masters in Science Communication and written a book titled Flesh and Blood. He previously spent three years in Emmerdale playing Sean Reynolds.
NEWCOMER: Georgie Glen plays Miss Higgins
Who is Miss Higgins? The new receptionist at Dr Turner’s surgery.
What else has Georgie Glen been in? With more than 100 film and TV credits to her name, you’ll have seen Georgie Glen in something. Her recent roles include Pat in Sally4Ever, Rose Kennedy in Jackie, and Aunt Bridget in The Evermoor Chronicles.
Max MacMillan plays Timothy Turner
Who is Timothy Turner? Timothy is the Turners’ eldest child. Now an awkward teenager, he has developed a strong interest in girls. He is intelligent, hard working and conscientious.
What else has Max MacMillan been in? Max MacMillan has grown up on the show: his character was only 11 years old when he joined. He’s currently filming a role in the movie The Song of Names, starring alongside Eddie Izzard, Tim Roth and Catherine McCormack.
Linda Bassett plays Nurse Phyllis Crane
Who is Nurse Phyllis Crane? Nurse Phyllis Crane is a bit of a battleaxe – in a good way. She is dedicated to her job as a senior midwife and will do anything to protect her patients. Phyllis is very close to some of the younger midwives, especially Trixie.
What else has Linda Bassett been in? Linda Basset was nominated for a Best Actress Bafta for her performance as Ella Khan in the 1999 film East Is East. Her past TV credits include period dramas Sense and Sensibility and Lark Rise to Candleford, and on the big screen she has been in The Reader and Calendar Girls.
Judy Parfitt plays Sister Monica Joan
Who is Sister Monica Joan? Monica Joan was one of the first women to qualify as a midwife in Britain. Now retired and suffering from dementia, she lives at Nonnatus House where her former colleagues lovingly care for her. She serves as a mentor to the team of midwives, but is increasingly distressed at her limitations and by her confusion. In the previous series she was losing her eyesight, but a cataract operation restored her vision.
What else has Judy Parfitt been in? Judy Parfitt has been nominated for a Bafta twice in her long career: she played Maria Thins in Girl With A Pearl Earring, and Mildred Layton in The Jewel In The Crown. In recent years she has starred in Up The Women, The Game, and Little Dorrit. The 82-year-old has been in Call The Midwife since the first time she opened the doors of Nonnatus House to welcome us inside.
What else has Victoria Yeates been in? Victoria Yeates joined Call the Midwife back in series three. She has just made her debut in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, playing the magical Bunty, and will be leaving Nonnatus House behind to continue in that role.
Cliff Parisi plays Fred Buckle
Who is Fred Buckle? Handyman Fred is always a friendly face to see around Nonnatus House. He is married to Violet and they have now been joined by orphaned young man Reggie, who has Down’s Syndrome.
What else has Cliff Parisi been in? EastEnders fans will recognise Cliff Parisi as Rick “Minty” Peterson, a role he held for eight years. He went on to appear in Hollyoaks, Outnumbered and Midsomer Murders, but since 2012 he has been a regular face in Call the Midwife.
Annabelle Apsion plays Violet Buckle
Who is Violet Buckle? Widowed shopkeeper Violet married Fred in series four. These days they have a new lease of life after adding Reggie to the family. She is deeply involved in the local community, organising events for Poplar’s young families and always trying to help out in the neighbourhood.
What else has Annabelle Apsion been in? Annabelle Apsion is better known as Monica Gallagher from Shameless, or as Joy Wilton from Soldier Soldier. More recently she’s appeared in The Halcyon, The Village and Doc Martin.
Daniel Laurie plays Reggie Jackson
Who is Reggie Jackson? Reggie first appeared in series six when the nuns at Nonnatus House stepped in to help him: his mother had recently died, leaving him orphaned. He has Down’s Syndrome and now lives with Fred and Violet Buckle, helping Fred at work.
What else has Daniel Laurie been in? Actor Daniel Laurie starred in Sky1 comedy Stella as Jamie – and led the cast of the Radio 4 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge back in 2014.
Trevor Cooper plays Sergeant Woolf
Who is Sergeant Woolf? Officious and gruff law-enforcer Sergeant Woolf has met his match in Nurse Crane, who gives as good as she gets. The two first crossed paths in 2017’s Christmas special and it has been clear ever since that he has a crush on her… but does she reciprocate?
What else has Trevor Cooper been in? Trevor Cooper was a big hit as Len Clifton in the BBC3 comedy This Country. The series is written and created by his niece Daisy and nephew Charlie Cooper and also stars his brother Paul, so it’s a real family affair. His other credits include Doctor Who, Outnumbered and Inside No 9.
Click on ‘next’ to find out more about Call the Midwife’s guest stars
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news