Stephen McGann, 52, has played Dr Turner since the first series. He lives with his wife, Call the Midwife scriptwriter, Heidi Thomas, and their 18-year-old son, Dominic, in Essex.
I often draw on the experiences of my parents for my role as Dr Turner. My on-screen wife Shelia [Laura Main] reminds me of my mum who was a 50s girl and her progress throughout the 60s was much like these women’s. My dad was older than my mum, so he belonged to that war generation and even dressed in a similar way – I look in the mirror just before I go on set and I see him.
Often Heidi will weave stories people have written to her about into the series – and sometimes even our own experiences appear on screen. My mum lost twins who died at birth many years ago, which Heidi touched on in storylines about the treatment of stillbirths. There weren’t baby cemeteries then, so you had to ask permission for them to go in a coffin with other people because they weren’t really recognised, which is what happened to my mum. It’s heartbreaking.
My most heart-wrenching moment working on the series came when Max’s character got polio – it was that idea of someone being snatched away from you. Heidi suddenly became very ill once, a bit like that. She had abdominal complications and went from walking around a mall to being at death’s door about 36 hours later. She was saved by brilliant surgery, but Dominic was only one at the time and it was a reminder how quickly things can be taken away from you.
I’ve had some real disasters on set too – in fact, our consultant midwife, Terri Coates, nearly punched me a few weeks ago! We were filming a scene with a real baby and there I was showing what a good doctor good I am, then I heard, “Cut!” and I put the baby down and walked away…I just left it there! Terri shouted, “Steve! What are you doing?” I’m a terrible doctor, so she has to keep me in check.
Call the Midwife’s Christmas special airs at 7.30pm, BBC One, on Christmas Day.