The last time we saw Helen George, she was storming around the Strictly ballroom dancing a Les Miserables-inspired Paso Doble. But the last time we saw her Call the Midwife character, Nurse Trixie Franklin, was a much more subdued affair.
The end of Call the Midwife series four saw Trixie admit she had a problem with alcohol, before seeking help at Alcoholics Anonymous. It was a moment which shocked and surprised fans of the drama.
“She’s always been a fun, bubbly character so when you do look in to what’s behind that it can be quite moving,” George tells us. “I remember when Heidi [Thomas, the series’ writer] told me about it just before we started filming the series. She said to me, ‘We’re going to start looking at Trixie’s relationship with alcohol.’ And the penny dropped. I was like, ‘Oh God, of course. Of course.’ I’d never realised there was a problem for her, but she didn’t either, so that’s completely natural. It’s life isn’t it.”
It was a tough storyline for George to film, but it’s had its upsides too: “My agent had an email not so long ago actually from a fellow who said watching the storyline had made him realise he had a problem with alcohol. He’s now in remission and has been going to AA for months.”
More of that will be explored in series five – “She’s definitely recovering this year yet she’s still quite vulnerable” – but Christmas is a quiet time for Trixie, says Helen George.
“General Christmas fun things! There’s nothing too serious for her which is nice.”
Filming the special is “always lovely” smiles George, even though it’s recorded in high summer. “There was one day when we were filming in East London by a church and they’d set up a Christmas market. There were chestnuts and snow machines everywhere. It was really nice.”
As ever, the snowflakes and festive spirit will be balanced with darker and more upsetting moments. Will it be a tearjerker?
“It’s Christmas! I’m sure it will be,” laughs George, “most episodes are.”
Tissues or not, the Strictly Come Dancing star will be tuning in on Christmas Day. “It’s a bit of a tradition now at Christmas. It is horrible watching it with your family definitely but I will try and watch it,” she says.
After all, Midwife might have had a slot on December 25th for four years now, but the excitement of being on TV on Christmas Day never does quite wear off.
“It’s something that makes me sometimes sit there and just go, ‘How did all this happen?’ From just a five minute audition. It’s so weird how something can so significantly change your life.
“It is still a massive honour. A huge honour. And the fact that, after just four years, it seems so inherent is such a huge tick for us.”
Call the Midwife returns on Christmas Day at 7:30pm on BBC1