Why Stephen McGann Thinks Call The Midwife Has Become So Popular

Over its 95 episodes, "Call the Midwife" follows the lives of East London midwives working in a convent nursing order. Series creator Heidi Thomas originally adapted the story from the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, whose book sales for "Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s" got a considerable boost when the series aired in 2012. After the departure of protagonist and Jennifer Worth avatar Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine), subsequent seasons of the show explored new narrative avenues but maintained viewership numbers in the millions along its eleven seasons.

Among the cast is Stephen McGann, who has played the benevolent Dr. Turner throughout the series ever since its first season (McGann is also married to showrunner Thomas). Episode after episode, Turner's compassion for his patients and the people of the poor Poplar district he serves shines through the bleakest situations ranging from Thalidomide-affected births to children suffering from polio, a kindness that McGann credits for the show's lasting power. McGann tells Parade:

"I believe that much of the popularity of the show is because people recognize these characters, and the audience recognizes in itself, some sort of innate goodness that they wish to strive for. It doesn't mean they're all perfect; they're not, but there's more natural striving in the Turners that people can recognize in everyday life than say another gangster movie, a serial killer film, or a heightened drama. All of which I enjoy and watch, but they're a different way to do drama and I think is part of the menu. I think that what our series does is show community, compassion, and support, and I think that's a valid reflection on life."

...we've sort of mined goodness in a way.

Tonal highs and lows are a regular fixture in the series, which sees its most socially marginalized patients coming to the National Health Service for medical help. Miscarriages happen. Stillbirths. Controversial storylines unpack incest, abortion, sex work, racism, domestic abuse, religious faith, and everything in between; no one on the show escapes strife of some form. But the series creator has confidence in the emotional roller coaster and the ability of the audience to handle it. McGann imparts a bit of wisdom from his wife Heidi, "If the audience trusts me, I'll always bring them back. But it doesn't mean that I won't take them to some places that matter." Asked to account for the show's loyal following, McGann said to Parade:

"The almost visceral connection with the audience is incredible. I think the reason it is, and the reason I loved going back to write about it and do the interviews for the book, is that it allowed me to reflect on some of the things that I think might be some of the secrets to the show. All of the actors feel very protective and precious about the show. In our house, we have allowed 'Call the Midwife' to take us along in this journey. So, when it's done, it's done. It's been a most remarkable period of our lives because we've sort of mined goodness in a way. We've explored the nature of people who work in communities of care and goodness, and that's a remarkable thing."

These days, when increased isolation and hostility threatens communities across the world, mining goodness is just what the doctor ordered.