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Jessica Raine interview: 'I'm not shackled to "Call the Midwife"'

We chat to the actress as she returns to the West End for a revival of Arnold Wesker's 'Roots'

© Stephen Cummiskey
After years playing teenagers and temptresses on the London stage, Jessica Raine hit the big time last year with BBC1’s ‘Call the Midwife’. She returns to the theatre this month to star as Beatie Bryant, the heroine of Arnold Wesker’s revived 1959 classic, ‘Roots’.

Who is Beatie?
‘She’s a 22-year-old from rural Norfolk who has been living in London with a young man called Ronnie, and she comes back to see her family, her head full of these really big socialist ideas and not really understanding them. She’s this vibrant character – it’s just a fucking amazing part and a million miles away from the very reserved one I’ve been playing on “Call the Midwife”.’

Though weirdly, isn’t it set at the same time as ‘Call the Midwife’?
‘It’s a fascinating era. I find I have a lot of information at my fingertips having played a woman from the ’50s already. If they’re having trouble deciding what props to use, I can say, “well there’d be Spam, there’d definitely be some Daz… Horlicks is a bit too “Midwife”.’ You’re filming ‘Midwife’ by day while appearing in ‘Roots’– are you a bit shackled to it now?
‘I’m not shackled to it. I think my dream would be to move into film, purely because there’s a definite beginning, middle and end to a project. I struggle a bit with such a big series that’s going all the time. But the part is just great.’

Have you met Arnold Wesker?
‘No, but he might come and see it. I have been looking a lot at his biography and also Dusty Wesker, his wife, who Beatie is based on. She wrote a cookbook, and that has been the most amazing piece of material because you just get a sense of the vivid energy of the woman. And she’s very into her liver and bacon, which I have to eat in the play every night, eight shows a week.’

Didn’t you have to eat loads of pudding in your last stage part, ‘The Changeling’?
‘The trifle! I can’t touch trifle now, I actually can’t!’

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