‘Call the Midwife’ interview: Ella Bruccoleri on playing newcomer Sister Frances

Call the Midwife has welcomed several new cast members this year.

Season 8 is currently airing in the USA on Sunday nights on Masterpiece on PBS and 2020’s episodes began filming in England recently.

After the season finale aired on BBC One last month, it was officially confirmed that the hit period drama series about a group of nurse midwives working in the East End of London will continue for at least another three seasons!

One of this year’s most popular cast additions with fans has been Ella Bruccoleri as Sister Frances.

Here Ella (who previously played a nun in The Last Kingdom!) chats about what it was like joining the cast of Call the Midwife:

Did you feel nervous on your first day?

“Yes, but you have to put that out of your mind or you would just be freaked out. But it’s a lovely, supportive bunch of people.”

In real life, do you think you would be friends with Sister Frances?

“Yes. I would get on with Sister Frances in real life. I’d warm to her because she’s very endearing and very vulnerable.

“I like people that have a lot of vulnerability. I’d want to take her under my wing and help her. She needs someone to do that for her.”

What has working on Call the Midwife taught you?

“I have learnt a lot about spirituality in general. I’ve done a lot of research into religious life. But I have also learned a lot about my spirituality just by playing Sister Frances.

“I had to tap into a deeper spirituality, which is something I hadn’t really thought a lot about before.”

What qualities do you share with your character?

“We are both quite socially awkward people. We find some areas of life difficult that other people seem to find easy. We both quite clumsy and a bit gawky.”

How are you different from Sister Frances?

“I think she is actually a lot stronger than I am. She is able to deal with things that I don’t know if I would be able to deal with. I don’t think she realises exactly how strong she is.”

What is Sister Frances’ relationship with Sister Hilda, who is also new to the show?

“Sister Frances and Sister Hilda have already been living together in the Mother House, and they come over together. So Sister Frances looks at Sister Hilda like a big sister. She feels protected by her.”

Was it helpful to join Call the Midwife at the same time as Fenella Woolgar?

“Yes. It definitely helped joining the show together. I would have been very terrified if I’d joined it alone. We’ve got each other’s backs. We’ve been able to do research together.

“We went to a convent together and met some nuns who were really helpful. They gave us tea and biscuits. It’s more fun doing that kind of thing together.”

How have you found it working with Miriam Margolyes?

“It’s been amazing. She’s great to have around and she’s wonderful to act with. I’ve had quite a few one-on-one scenes with her.

“She’s this really commanding presence which Mother Mildred is supposed to be. I’m equally intimidated and in awe of her.”

Does Call the Midwife tackle serious social issues?

“Yes. It addresses subjects that are not addressed in other dramas such as the treatment of the poor. You don’t see that focus on working-class people in other dramas nowadays.”

I believe you experienced an uncanny prediction that you would appear in Call the Midwife. Can you tell us about that?

“My friend had a weird premonition. When I was at drama school, I was playing a nun in one of the shows. We didn’t have a budget for costume, so I just tied a pillowcase to my head, and that was me as a nun.

“My friend said, “Oh, Ella, you look really good as a nun. I can imagine you in Call the Midwife”. It didn’t really register with me at the time, but he predicted the future. Isn’t that amazing?”

Call the Midwife is available on DVD on Amazon.