Helen George Delivers in ‘Call the Midwife’
Bryony Hannah, from left, Jessica Raine and Helen George costar in "Call the Midwife," returning to PBS for its second season on Sunday. (MCT)
Helen George may look like the sexy Trixie she plays on PBS’ Call the Midwife, but that’s where the resemblance ends.
George is far more serious and dedicated to her profession than her looks imply. “It’s a vocation — as we meet these midwives they choose a vocation as well, and I think it’s your cross to bear. Acting is my midwifery, I suppose,” she says, seated in a hotel guest room here.
“I say vocation in the true sense of the word because it takes over your whole life. You live it. It’s not a 9-to-5; you can’t switch it off,” she sighs.
“And the things that surround a show like Call the Midwife, like the press — and there are so many other things that come with just the acting as well, so many other things to stress about, I suppose.”
George was here to talk about the second season of the British series, which premieres on Sunday, and to try out for some American pilots. She admits she’s scared to death to do that.
“I had my first audition over here yesterday and I was soooo nervous. I’ve done so many auditions in London and big musical auditions and big film auditions and TV, and here the fright of doing my first American audition was so much bigger. It was fine once I went in there, but it was so scary.”
If that were not enough stress, her trip has forced a separation from her actor husband of three months, Oliver Boot. “I’m Mrs. Boot,” she laughs, “I sound like a hit woman.”
In spite of the miles between them, George says her husband is a constant in her life. “He understands what I do, he helps me so much,” she says. They met when they costarred in the British series Hotel Babylon.
“I had that rule: Don’t date actors, and certainly don’t marry an actor. That was Rule No. 1, but you can’t help who you fall in love with, I suppose. And when you’re acting and your job is to fall in love with someone — and sometimes it happens. We met on a job and we were friends for a long time before we entered into a relationship, and actually it’s a really wonderful, healthy relationship,” says George.
Her calling essentially began when she was 5 and started taking dancing lessons. But by the time she was a teenager she realized that her future did not fit in a tutu.
“I went to see Les Mis when I was about 15 in the West End and I went home and I loved it so much. I didn’t know how to sing at that point, and I started singing every song in the house by myself, everyone had gone out. And I suddenly thought, ‘Oh, I can hit those notes. I can sing those songs.’ ”
So she auditioned for a performing arts boarding school. “And I had to do an acting piece for that, and I got in and did that. And through singing, I kind of found acting ... And now I think I’d find it hard to go back to musical theater because I love acting so much. I found my way, and then I’m here.”
Her dad was a professor of politics and her mom a social worker, both now retired. When she displayed this proclivity for performing they didn’t object, she says. “I struggled at school because I wasn’t an academic, yet I came from an academic family so I think that was always a worry for my parents.
“They thought, ‘Oh, God, she’s a wild child what are we going to do with her? She needs a purpose.’ I did find a purpose and passion because I think the hardest thing in life is not having a passion and people that float from job to job not really knowing what they want to do. But I found my passion.”
She applies the same dedication to her domestic life as she does her work. “I love to clean my flat,” she confides, leaning forward in her chair. “I can’t think straight if I have a dirty home, and I won’t get a cleaner. I have to do it myself. It cleanses my soul every time I clean. I’m an old-fashioned sort of a girl like that.”
But when it comes to finances, it’s a different matter. “I’m bad at math,” she shrugs. “My husband calls me ‘27,000’ because whenever there’s a sum that needs to be done I always come up with some wild figure that bears no relevance, so I’m not to be trusted with money at all - or shopping,” she laughs.
“I’m very good at spending money. I’m always hiding my new purchases under the bed and telling my husband I’ve had it for years. And I cut all the labels off. ‘It was on sale.’”
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