Role leads to birth of a TV star

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story - DAR­REN DEV­LYN

FAME has crept up quickly, and un­ex­pect­edly, on Jes­sica Raine. She has long been a ma­jor pres­ence on the UK the­atri­cal scene and had a key role in Rus­sell Crowe’s Robin Hood, but Raine’s lead role in TV drama Call the Mid­wife — the BBC’s most suc­cess­ful new drama since 2001 — has seen her pro­file shoot sky­ward.

‘‘ None of us had any idea it was go­ing to be the suc­cess it was,’’ Raine says.

‘‘ Things changed for me straight away. I got on the train the next morn­ing (af­ter the screening of episode one) and I felt there was this shift— there was just this at­mos­phere of peo­ple star­ing at me. At first I thought I must have had some­thing on my face,’’ she adds with a laugh.

‘‘ I think I’m so ready for this. I think to an ex­tent you can choose how much you let it (fame) af­fect you. I’m hav­ing so much fun.’’

Call the Mid­wife is touted as an in­ti­mate, funny, and true-to­life look at the colourful sto­ries of mid­wifery and fam­i­lies in East Lon­don in the 1950s.

Raine, 30, plays Jenny Lee, who was raised in the wealthy English coun­try­side and made the un­likely de­ci­sion to be­come a nurse.

A newly qual­i­fied mid­wife, she knows noth­ing about hard­ship or poverty. At­tached to an or­der of nuns at Non­na­tus House, she be­comes part of a team of mid­wives who look af­ter the poor­est ex­pec­tant mums in the re­gion.

Among Jenny’s pa­tients are Con­chita, who is on her 25th preg­nancy, and Mary, a 15-year-old pros­ti­tute.

While ‘‘ in­cred­i­bly weird and real-look­ing’’ pros­thetic dolls are some­times used in film­ing, Raine says the set is of­ten pop­u­lated with ba­bies.

‘‘ The rou­tine was quite alien to me be­cause I’ve not done much film­ing be­fore,’’ Raine says.

‘‘ In the first week of film­ing we had to do Con­chita’s birth scene, a re­ally com­pli­cated birth. My brain was say­ing, ‘ Se­ri­ously, do we have to start with this’. I just had to com­pletely throw my­self in. We have a real mid­wife there ... and she re­ally helped me out.

‘‘ I don’t have kids and at first I was very ner­vous han­dling ba­bies. Four months later I’m in there just scoop­ing them up out of their beds.’’ Call the Mid­wife, ABC1, Sun­day, 8.30pm

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