The Mid­wife called and ac­tress an­swered

Dance teacher in­spired Main to put her­self out there and au­di­tion for any­thing


BEV­ERLY HILLS, CALIF.— Al­though she’s been co-star­ring in a hit TV show for six years now, peo­ple still don’t rec­og­nize ac­tress Laura Main on the street. Recog­ni­tion has been “a long, slow burn,” says Main, seated in a noisy cof­fee bar.

“It’s be­cause I was in the nun’s wim­ple for two years and then the glasses. So it wasn’t a case, the show is watched by so many mil­lions, and sud­denly I’m rec­og­nized. That didn’t hap­pen at all. Not at all,” she says.

The show is PBS’s Call the Mid­wife, which will of­fer a spe­cial Christ­mas episode next Mon­day (WNED at 9 p.m.). Main plays the Scot­tish nun who re­lin­quishes her call­ing when she falls for the stout-hearted doc­tor on the show.

Even af­ter her char­ac­ter and the doc­tor were mar­ried and try­ing to start a fam­ily, the pa­parazzi were not in hot pur­suit, she says.

“I would say se­ri­ously it’s only been in the last six months that I think peo­ple rec­og­nize me. Be­cause of the na­ture of the show, and be­cause of the warmth that peo­ple have for the show and how they care about all the char­ac­ters, peo­ple are warm and kind and want to tell you how much they like the pro­gram. And that’s a nice thing to hear,” she says.

Be­ing fa­mous was never one of her goals, Main says in her thick, Scot­tish burr.

“I have to ad­mit I wasn’t ever dream­ing of some­thing as big as Call the Mid­wife. I just wanted to act, and just wanted to prac­tise it and do it. So do­ing that mix of things I was do­ing, that was fine with me.”

That “mix of things” was sev­eral other jobs that saw her through fol­low­ing drama school in Lon­don. She worked in com­mer­cials, as a temp for a while and then was of­fered a full­time job that wasn’t act­ing. “How­ever, they did say, ‘You can go off to au­di­tions.’ I was on a con­tract as op­posed to do­ing the temp­ing work. I thought that was fine. But it be­came ap­par­ent that it wasn’t quite go­ing to work. It was a bit far away to get to au­di­tions,” Main says.

“I said, ‘OK, I’m go­ing to do this. But I’ll only leave for some­thing big, maybe it’ll be some­thing that’ll be shot quite quickly.’ But I found my­self get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing like State Fair that was a profit-share show. It re­ally was a great ex­pe­ri­ence and they were do­ing it again a year later, and I was do­ing this other job. And I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m go­ing to do this (show).’ It wasn’t leav­ing to do the ‘big job.’ It was leav­ing to do some­thing small scale, but some­thing that I was proud of and en­joyed do­ing.”

Her full-time job was as a re­cep­tion­ist for de­signer Jasper Con­ran.

“It was Jasper him­self who un­der­stood that I’m an ac­tress and about go­ing to au­di­tions,” she re­calls. “But the lo­gis­tics of it didn’t quite work.”

Main grew up in Aberdeen, Scot­land, the youngest of three girls. Her dad, re­tired now, was a fish mer­chant, her mother a teacher and then a house­wife. Her par­ents sup­ported her pro­cliv­ity for per­form­ing ever since she was10 years old. She cred­its her dance teacher, Karen Berry, for ig­nit­ing the pas­sion in her.

“My danc­ing teacher — no, I wasn’t a dancer — ba­si­cally showed me the world of act­ing and do­ing a bit of ev­ery­thing: singing, act­ing and a lit­tle bit of danc­ing. But it’s to­tally be­cause of her. And I was about10 or11, and I’d gone to these sum­mer work­shops do­ing danc­ing, drama, did am­a­teur shows and spe­cial shows that would come to town and she would sug­gest au­di­tion­ing. It was about meet­ing an in­spi­ra­tional per­son like that and I sup­pose I found I liked it.”

She says she en­joys the phys­i­cal­ity of per­form­ing. “I was al­ways a bit sporty grow­ing up and it’s a phys­i­cal thing be­ing on­stage for many hours and do­ing the whole thing. It’s just good fun.”

Main, 36, is a “bit sporty” in an­other way. She re­cently ran a marathon.

“Peo­ple say it’s go­ing to be an amaz­ing day. And you can’t quite imag­ine how it could be an amaz­ing day, but it re­ally was,” she says.

“I did rea­son­ably well with my train­ing. You have to fit it in with your act­ing, but it is a big com­mit­ment. But I was run­ning for a char­ity that I’m am­bas­sador for now. It’s for vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren in Le­sotho, which is that land­locked coun­try in the mid­dle of South Africa,” she says.

“Peo­ple sup­port you and spur you on, and I just had this most won­der­ful day. I ab­so­lutely loved it . . . Some­body said to me, ‘If you’ve done that, you can do any­thing.’ And, in a way, you can now say to your­self: ‘That was a scary mo­ment.’ Be­cause even now when I go for the oc­ca­sional job, I’m think­ing, ‘How did I run the marathon? What hap­pened?’ That is prob­a­bly some­thing that will stay with me for­ever. It was an achieve­ment.”

“Be­cause of the na­ture of the show . . . peo­ple are warm and kind and want to tell you how much they like the pro­gram.” LAURA MAIN


Stephan McGann as Dr. Turner and Laura Main as She­lagh in the Call the Mid­wife hol­i­day spe­cial.

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