Laura Main: 'Shelagh does feel like a part of me now'

20th Mar 19 | Lifestyle

As three more years of Call The Midwife are confirmed, actress Laura Main talks to Gabrielle Fagan about life on and off screen.

TV Choice Awards 2017 - London

Shelagh Turner, Laura Main’s character in Call The Midwife, has certainly had her share of challenges and tear-jerking storylines – renouncing her vows as a nun after falling in love with Dr Turner, followed by fertility struggles and the journey to adoption.

The hit BBC series’ sensitive and emotion-loaded plots have been immensely rewarding for Main however, who’s been on the show from its outset in 2012.

The 38-year-old actress from Aberdeen – who, in real life, is softly-spoken, self-effacing and down-to-earth in much the same way as her character – admits she “never dreamt” Call The Midwife would be such a “huge success” and would run for so long.

Due to it’s huge popularity, it was recently confirmed that the show will run until 2022, covering up until 1967 (it was 1957 when it started).

Here, Main talks about what being part of the series means to her, what she’s learned along the way, and how running and meditation apps are an important part of her wellness regime…

What’s it like being on such a successful long-running show?
“It’s made with such love and care and we all get on so well, it actually doesn’t feel like making a TV show. It’s become like a way of life and like a family. We’re all very supportive of each other and socialise outside of work, so it’s brought me a whole bunch of new friends as well.

“I never dreamt when I first auditioned in 2011 that we’d be filming series nine now, and with series 10 and 11 planned, we’ll be on screen until 2022.

“[Call The Midwife] seems to resonate with all generations. For some, it takes them down memory lane, while for others it’s educational. It also taps into some real big core human values and desires, so an episode can touch people, be cathartic and also funny. And I think one part of its appeal is it’s so refreshing to see women supporting each other and collaborating. Another strength is the way it tackles tough, difficult issues with such care, and there’s incredibly thorough research so every detail is correct.”

What does your character Shelagh mean to you?
“If she was a real person, I think I’d like her in real life. I can see little bits of her which are like me – she’s quite precise, careful and thoughtful – but I think she’s calmer than me. Although she copes way better than I ever would with her incredibly busy life, working and bringing up a family.

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“She’s a wonderful role to play because she’s had such an interesting life. She renounced her religious vows for love, got married, at one stage faced the heartbreak of not being able to have children.

“After all this time, she does feel a part of me, although without her hair style and the glasses I rarely get recognised out of work – only sometimes when I speak, because of my Aberdeen accent.”

Do you feel you’ve changed since the series began in 2012?
“I feel I’ve grown up along with Shelagh in a way, over the years. As she’s found contentment in her life, she’s become more confident and matured, and maybe I have too. A part of that for me is being in what feels like a grown-up regular job, because it’s so secure and continuing. In a profession that’s known to be wonderfully unpredictable, it’s very unusual to have the solidity and security of knowing what’s coming next”

You’ve given birth on screen and work with your on-screen children all the time – would you like a family?

Laura Main as Shelagh Turner with her on-screen family, Little May (April Rea Haong) HOANG), Angela Turner (Alice Brown) (Neal Street Productions/ Ollie Upton/BBC)
Laura Main as Shelagh Turner with her on-screen family (Neal Street Productions/Ollie Upton/BBC/PA)

“I love children, my sisters have three children whom I adore, and hopefully at some point I’ll have my own family. I’m definitely getting good experience on set working with the children and people say I’m really good with them.

“Actually, working with them is an extra treat of the job. I get loads of lovely cuddles with the toddler who plays my son, Teddy. He just wants to explore all the time, but I’ve found one thing that will distract him or put him in a good mood is my singing, ‘Row, row, row your boat..’.

“I’ve known Alice [Brown], who plays Angela my adopted daughter, since she was six months old and she feels like one of my nieces, and now we’ve got April [Rae Hoang], four, who plays May, who’s come into the Turner family. It’s lovely helping to get performances out them. Both girls are bringing each other on, and now they’re starting to tell me where to stand and what they have to say!”

What have you learnt from being in the show?
“Being a midwife and nurse is all about thinking of others; I’ve learnt a lot about that from playing the role. When you play a character, it does rub off on you, and it’s made me aware of being thoughtful and aware of other people’s needs.”

You starred as Princess Fiona in the touring production of Shrek The Musical last year – how did you cope juggling that with Call The Midwife?
“It was the best year in my acting career. Life was pretty hectic – for a while, it felt like my feet almost didn’t touch the ground, but I absolutely loved it. It was brilliant to have the contrast of Shelagh, who’s a little reserved, while Princess Fiona was very upfront and fun. The only trial with her was getting off the green make-up after every performance!

“I started out acting in musicals when I was a child, after I discovered my love of performing through tap dancing classes. I can remember being around 12 and playing one of the von Trapp children in a touring production of The Sound Of Music, playing opposite Christopher Cazenove and Liz Robertson. It was amazing, and probably the moment when I thought, ‘Wow, you can do this for a living’.”

How do you look after your health?

“I do yoga, run, walk and cycle. Running the London Marathon two years ago  made me realise how beneficial it is to exercise regularly. It’s not a level I could sustain but now I’m more conscious about staying fit. I’m lucky I’ve always had good health: I’m a pescatarian, not a huge drinker and I don’t smoke.”

And how do you look after your wellbeing?
“My moods can go up and down, but that’s usually down to circumstances. Sometimes you can feel too busy, and then at other times not busy enough, but if I’m lacking in motivation, I’ll go for a run and it always make me feel better.

“I’ve begun meditating, which I find a useful tool for wellbeing and for acting. Before I step onto a set or go on stage, I’ll plug myself into a meditation app for around 20 minutes. It takes me out of my head and my worries and makes me much more in the moment and focused.”

The Call The Midwife Series 8 DVD, which includes the Christmas Special, is available now from DVD stores nationwide and Amazon, RRP £20.42.

© Press Association 2019