“I’ve been in a state of mild rage for about seven years now,” Call the Midwife creator and screenwriter Heidi Thomas tells us, with a smile. “Because Call the Midwife – certainly in its early days – was often dismissed as being lightweight, fluffy. It was called TV Horlicks because it was about women.”
The BBC drama can certainly be heartwarming and funny, but it’s far from lightweight. Call the Midwife fans know from experience to have the tissues ready as the nuns and midwives of Nonnatus House guide us through storylines including domestic violence, poverty, bereavement, disability, love and loss. After all: pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are not for the faint of heart.
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Thomas tells RadioTimes.com: “I think that over the last couple of years a far broader sweep of people have come to terms with what we’re about, they understand that we deal with some quite hard hitting issues as well, and the fact that the drama is about women does not mean it should be dismissed.
“I do think we get more understanding and more appreciation now and I’m very happy about that.”
Thomas has been working in theatre and TV for three decades, adapting classic novels including Little Women, I Capture the Castle, Ballet Shoes and Cranford – and she has noticed a shift in the conversations we’re having about women in the industry and on screen in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and all that has followed.
“I do think things are changing for the better,” she says. “I think as a society and as an industry, both television and film, over the past 12 months we’ve had reason to have some really hard conversations about the way people conduct themselves and the attitudes we have towards each other.
“And I wish we hadn’t been through this period, this phase as an industry, but I’m really glad things are being spoken about more openly.”
Call the Midwife airs on Sundays at 8pm on BBC1