TV & Radio
Miranda Hart could scarcely believe her good fortune when she was cast as the amiable midwife Camilla Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne - better known as Chummy - in the hit British period drama Call The Midwife.
"I got so lucky with this character," beams the 41-year-old actress. "She is the most wonderful part to play. The author of Call The Midwife, Jennifer Worth, suggested me for the role and I was so pleased that she knew I had been cast before she sadly passed away.
"I just love Chummy. When I first read the book, I thought, 'No one else is allowed to play Chummy. She's mine.'"
It is indeed hard now to imagine another actress in the role, so much has Hart made it her own.
In the forthcoming third series of the drama, which is adapted by Heidi Thomas from Jennifer Worth's best-selling memoirs about her own time as a midwife in London's East End during the 1950s, Chummy struggles to come to terms with her new dual role as housewife and mother to baby Fred.
But after assisting with the delivery of a neighbour's baby, Chummy is soon overcome by an immense sense of satisfaction.
She realises that midwifery is not merely a profession; it is a way of life to which she longs to return.
Hart, who is as charming and self-effacing off screen as on it, reflects on how Chummy initially handles motherhood.
"It's not easy for her. She's having to juggle the baby and work. She copes with it in a very upper-class way - 'I've just got to crack on with it'...
"The notion of women having a deep vocation was not widely accepted then.
"Women were made to feel guilty about not wanting to be full-time mums."
The actress, who also stars in the sitcom Miranda, assesses why Call The Midwife has been such an enormous global success.
"There is something about that era of the 1950s that people love. I get that.
The drama depicts a very real, very simple community and people connect with that.
"In those days, there would be one TV set on the street and everyone would gather round it for great events.
"Because this show is about midwives, it portrays that London East End community in a very heightened way and underlines its closeness.
"Above all, Heidi has made it very loving and warm without it becoming saccharine. It's a terrific achievement."
Hart, who co-stars in Call The Midwife with Jessica Raine as Jenny Lee, considers whether that sense of community is now gone.
"I think it is. I wish I had a neighbourhood like the one in Call The Midwife.
Nowadays we don't even know who our neighbours are. Also we don't talk as much to each other because we are on our smart phones all the time."
Call The Midwife has been so huge all over the world, Hart is hopeful that, "It will carry on for a long time. The characters are so well loved. You don't get to be in this sort of hit show very often. This may be the only time I get to do it.
"Inevitably you think, 'When is my popularity going to end?' All actors think that their current job will be their last. It's not necessarily insecurity - it's just practical.
"The industry is precarious for many reasons. You can be about to do a costume fitting for a film and then at the last minute the finance suddenly disappears. You're never sure when the tide will shift in terms of what people want. It's not just a matter of pathetic actor insecurity."
Finally, Hart has a secret to share. The ever-modest actress reveals that she can't watch her own scenes in Call The Midwife.
"I watch the scenes I'm not in, but I always fast forward my own sequences because I find it difficult to watch myself. I say to myself, 'I know this bit, so I'm going to fast forward it.' But I am a fan of the show, so it's a shame when you have to miss part of the story because you're in it. That does get to me."
Call The Midwife
- TV Guide