Call The Midwife ready to tackle changing times of 60s

It's spring of 1964 in the eighth series of BBC One's Call The Midwife, and times are changing. Georgia Humphreys chats to cast members about the new storylines.

Jennifer Kirby as Valerie Dyer in the latest series of Call The Midwife

After a dramatic Christmas episode, our excitement levels were raised even higher for series eight of Call The Midwife. Thankfully, the wait is over.

Set in 1964, it will see familiar faces in Poplar’s Nonnatus House joined by two new nuns, who are thrown right into the action. And you can be sure there will be plenty of heartbreaking, heart-warming and humorous moments as the hugely popular show continues (admit it, you sob at every episode...)

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Here, some of the key cast members tell us exactly what’s in store for their characters this series.

We saw Nurse Trixie, played by Brummie Helen George, 34, return unexpectedly from her time away in Italy in the Christmas episode. Refreshed and seeming like her troubles are behind her, she’s back to work. And series eight sees her be part of something pioneering – the first smear test to take place in London.

“The doctor starts to do it and she takes over from his lead,” explains George, who’s also known for film The Three Musketeers.

“But she pushes the first initiative for smear tests in London. That was really interesting to push that story forward and think, ‘Gosh it was the

60s and that’s not actually that long ago!’”

There’s a “really interesting” hermaphrodite storyline George is involved in, too.

“It’s one which you wouldn’t think would be on Call The Midwife,” she suggests. “I don’t know why, but with my modern eyes, it felt like a modern storyline. But that’s what we are dealing with in the early 60s. It brings together the medical side with the emotional turmoil she has to face, as she’s just about to get married to her fiancé, so it really ricochets over several members of her family.

“It was fascinating to do. I think Heidi [Thomas, the writer] is also very clever with that. Call The Midwife is always timely.”

Thomas never shies away from dealing with difficult subject matters that took place in the time period of Call The Midwife – for example, there’s a focus this series on the very early days of the Welfare State, and the fact there’s an awful lot of social deprivation around.

However, Jenny Agutter, 66, who has starred in Call The Midwife since it first hit our screens in 2012, says the world of Poplar is different from when the show started.

“One of the big changes in terms of storylines is having come from a world where you don’t have anything, to having a world where suddenly it seems like there are many, many more choices,” she says.

“For the nuns, that’s thrown up very particularly, because we’ve been through the First World War, the Second World War... One’s living in a society that’s becoming affluent, and even in Poplar there is more choice – although the community is held together because it’s not as rich as other places. The nuns do remain the same in as much as they always have their faith and that holds them, but they’re also working with midwives who are embracing this new world.”

Jennifer Kirby, 28, who plays Nurse Valerie, reveals there’s an abortion storyline in the first episode. And this leads to the issue being a definitive theme across the series, she says.

“There are further cases down the line – I don’t want to spoil anything, but Valerie takes it to heart in a way, because she is so connected to that community. It’s where she’s from, it’s where she’s lived most of her life.”

Of her role this time round, she adds: “I really delved into Valerie’s story more – who she is when she’s from Poplar, and who she is when she’s around her family, not just in her professional sense. It’s been amazing.”

Call The Midwife returns to BBC One on Sunday, January 13.