There has been an outpouring of love for Nonnatus House’s first-ever West Indian midwife Nurse Lucille Anderson since she made her debut in Call the Midwife’s series seven premiere – but actress Leonie Elliott has admitted she was nervous about how the public would react to her arrival.
“I think I was a little bit apprehensive at first,” she tells RadioTimes.com. “But the public have been so lovely and really sweet and they seem to have taken Lucille into their hearts.”
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In episode two, viewers were horrified to see Lucille under attack from her patient’s mother who abused her with racist comments and refused to let the midwife touch her grandchildren. Lucille dealt with the situation calmly and with her head held high, and later had a heart-to-heart with Nurse Valerie Dyer (Jennifer Kirby) about the bullying and discrimination since arriving in Britain.
“I was actually really impressed with the public’s reaction,” Elliott says. ” A lot of the audience said they couldn’t believe what Lucille had gone through, and then other people came forward and said that they had had similar experiences.
“So it’s really humbling to know that people would come over from abroad, and look after people, or deliver babies and have to face such prejudice. But I feel like Lucille overcomes it and I feel like she’ll be very popular in Poplar.”
Nurse Anderson’s arrival in Poplar mirrors real-life events, as many young women arrived from the Caribbean in the late 50s and 60s to train and work as midwives in Britain. And incredibly, one Call the Midwife fan has shared an image of her West Indian grandmother – also called Nurse Anderson:
My incredible Grandma is twins with the new Midwife on #callthemidwife ! What’s further amazing is that they both share the same name of Nurse Anderson AND both delivered babies in the same area! So happy that the show is presenting the rise of West-indies nurses in the 60’s ???? pic.twitter.com/ihkouU69aC
— Emily (@princessemla) January 22, 2018
“Well I actually had someone who tweeted a picture of their [grandmother], who actually was a midwife during that time in Poplar, and it was lovely,” Elliott says. “And she put a little caption next to Lucille and said that her mum and Lucille are twins.”
And Call the Midwife screenwriter Heidi Thomas could not be happier with the response.
“I think Leonie Elliott was an instant hit as the character, I think people immediately warmed to Lucille,” she tells us. “And we have had a lovely postbag from often younger women, saying, this is my grandmother’s story, this is my aunt’s story, this is my mother’s story, and I think sometimes to remind young women of the legacy of their forebears is a fantastic thing to do.”
Call the Midwife airs on Sundays at 8pm on BBC1