“People like seeing a man be emotional,” says Laura Main. She’s referring to her on-screen husband, Dr Patrick Turner, played by Stephen McGann – and he’s definitely shed some tears in this series of Call the Midwife.
Patrick and his wife, Shelagh Turner, were blindsided when their ‘orphaned’ foster daughter May’s biological mother turned up out of the blue, threatening to derail the adoption.
The doctor has also faced some heartbreaking medical cases in series nine, with the death of a newborn baby from congenital rubella syndrome leaving him sobbing privately in his car.
McGann told RadioTimes.com at the Radio Times Covers Party: “The most touching thing about me crying on screen, for me, [was to be] contacted by medics saying, ‘Thank you for that. We do that, we go off’ – and I found that incredibly moving. I said, well thanks, because it’s genuine. Because you’ve got to find somewhere to have your cry.
“Can you imagine what these guys deal with all the time? We’re just playing ‘let’s pretend’, but these guys really do it.”
The actor is no stranger to letting his emotions out. “I’m a great crier and I think I’m lucky because I grew up in a family who could go and watch a movie, and shed a tear, and that was okay,” he explained. “My father wasn’t like that, but the boys were, and I think that’s very healthy… it’s a great catharsis.”
McGann’s brothers are, of course, the actors Joe McGann (currently on Hollyoaks), Paul McGann (of Doctor Who fame), and Mark McGann.
Laura Main also found it emotional to film the scenes with little May in this series, having bonded with child actor April Rae Hoang since she arrived in the 2018 Christmas special.
“It’s easy to feel the emotions because there is a genuine – you’re not totally acting,” she said. “You do love these kids, you know, and I love little April and it makes it easier to tap into it because she’s just a terrific little girl.”
The storyline touched on some painful truths about adoption, which isn’t always emotionally (or legally) simple.
It’s clear that the Turner family loves this little girl, and that May also loves her new parents and siblings – especially her sister Angela. She is distressed to be reunited with her birth mother Esther (Yennis Cheung) and is clearly thriving in Poplar where the Turners can offer her a bright future.
But Esther also still loves her daughter. From her perspective, May belongs with her; and she’s distressed at the idea of May losing her original language and not being connected to her Chinese heritage.
“There’s no easy answer,” McGann said.
“Like with any of the themes in Call the Midwife, that it’s painful – and with the story unfolding as it did, by episode six, there’s some real heartache there – and there’s no one simple side to be taken. Of course, we wouldn’t do that.”
He added: “We’ve been contacted on the show by adopted children… they’ve written in and said, ‘it was nice that it was complex. Because it’s not easy, and there are a lot of things that are not simple – and thanks for making it not simple.’ Because it isn’t.”
The Call the Midwife finale airs on Sunday 23rd February 2020 at 8pm on BBC One