In April last year, Call the Midwife fans were overjoyed to be told that one Camilla “Chummy” Fortescue-Cholmeley-Browne would be returning to the period medical drama for series six, after work commitments had forced actor Miranda Hart her to leave at the end of the third season.
The show’s producers were thrilled to welcome back actor Miranda Hart and the “fabulous blend of warmth, strength and vulnerability” she brought to the role of the Nonnatus House midwife – but then four months later Hart announced that her busy schedule had again thrown a spanner in the works and she had been forced to pull out.
News: it's with a heavy heart that having shared Chummy's return to CTM, I've not been able to birth (pun) the schedule to make it work. xx
— Miranda Hart (@mermhart) August 18, 2016
With just five months to go until it was due on screen, creator Heidi Thomas had to re-write the series, which had been sketched out around Chummy’s return.
“We were thrilled when Miranda approached us, and I story-lined the series for her,” reveals Thomas in the new issue of Radio Times. “But at relatively short notice she had to withdraw.”
Exactly how short? “I can’t say, but it was short. We were hopeful right up to the end that we could make it work, but we couldn’t.”
“I just rewrote the series without Miranda in it, which was sad because we would have loved having her in it… She is part of the CTM family. But it wasn’t meant to be.”
Despite the late changes, the series is now in the can and will begin airing on Sunday 22nd January, packed full of its usual warmth and heart, and also the kind of grittier social and medical history stories Call the Midwife has become known for.
Among the subjects it is set to tackle are domestic violence, parenting as a disabled person, working conditions for dockers and even female genital mutilation, an issue which, despite having a high profile today, Thomas says Call the Midwife will be sure to show in the proper historical and cultural context of the time.
Call the Midwife series six begins on Sunday 22nd January at 8pm on BBC1
Read the full interview with Heidi Thomas – and discover the other shows that were re-written after stars departed – in the new issue of Radio Times magazine, in shops and on the Apple Newsstand from Tuesday