Why Call The Midwife's Charlotte Ritchie doesn't relate to her character anymore

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Kayleigh Dray
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Charlotte Ritchie’s beloved character, Barbara, will return to BBC One’s Call the Midwife this week after a leave of absence – but it seems that she’s returning to Poplar a changed woman.

Warning: this article contains some spoilers for BBC One’s current series of Call the Midwife.

Call the Midwife fans were disappointed when, during the Christmas special, Nurse Barbara Gilbert (Charlotte Ritchie) and her husband, Reverend Tom Hereward (Jack Aston) made the decision to leave Poplar and move to Birmingham.

“I know I’m supposed to go where God calls me,” said Tom. “I just don’t know why he would call me away from here.”

Thankfully, though, it seems their move was only temporary – and the couple will be returning to the series in this week’s episode (Sun 18 Feb).

While we know that Sister Julienne promised to keep a job open for Barbara, though, it seems that the young midwife will be quite different when she returns to Nonnatus House.

“She looks more sophisticated with her clothes and her hair is longer so she’s styled up in Birmingham,” says Ritchie, in an interview with What’s On TV.

The actress goes on to say that – while she loves her character’s confidence (“she’s brave than me by a country mile!”) – she sometimes finds it difficult to relate to Barbara, especially now that she’s a married woman.

Why? Because, like so many women of the era, Barbara finds it difficult to stray from the cookie cutter image of the ‘perfect’ wife and homemaker.

“She sees herself as a wife and thinks her role is to iron Tom’s shirts and cook the dinner,” says Ritchie. 

“That’s where she and I part ways, but that’s fitting for the time.”

In the same interview, Ritchie reveals that she decided to leave the show so that she could play Celia in West End show The Philanthropist alongside Simon Bird, Tom Rosenthal, Matt Berry and Lily Cole.

However, while she was only gone for five months, she found she “really missed” the Call the Midwife cast and crew.

“I felt left out when everyone else was filming, although we kept in touch on WhatsApp,” she says, adding that she really “didn’t like the idea of Barbara and Tom disappearing off into the sunset forever”.

Thankfully, though, creator Heidi Thomas was all too happy to bring Tom and Barbara back into the series.

Why? Well, as Sister Julienne puts it: “Nonnatus House will always need good midwives, and we will always need each other.

“Little matters more in such a fractured world.”

However, while the BBC One show will air on screens until at least 2020, Ritchie has said that she isn’t currently sure how long she will remain playing CTM’s Barbara as she worries about becoming complacent.

“I don’t know for sure,” she told the Radio Times last year. “It really depends on what I do next…

“I love it so much but I always get worried about being complacent in something like that so it depends as well if they want me back. So although it’s guaranteed for three years, none of us are. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Call the Midwife airs on Sundays at 8pm on BBC One.

Images: BBC One


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.