Funny girl

Miranda Hart has achieved national treasure status with her BBC sitcom and portrayal of a posh 1950s Midwife – not forgetting a fitness DVD featuring a workout with maracas

With the new series of Call The Midwife on our screens this year, actress, writer and comedian Miranda Hart is set to be busier than ever in 2015.

Best known for her BBC sitcom Miranda – which earned four BAFTA nominations, three Royal Television Society awards and four British Comedy Awards throughout its three series – she first appeared in Call The Midwife in 2012 as Camilla ‘Chummy’ Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it – or read the book by former nurse Jennifer Worth – Call The Midwife follows newly qualified midwife Jenny Lee and the work of the midwives and nuns of a nursing convent, Nonnatus House. And being set in the deprived East End of London during the 1950s, the midwives and nuns have to cope with numerous medical and emotional problems.

Miranda’s character Chummy – who the actress has described as a “crazy but lovely, vulnerable, sweet woman” – is the daughter of a prominent family who found her way into nursing and midwifery. An adept midwife, she is initially hampered by acute shyness, not to mention a complete inability to ride a bike.

“Luckily I’m good at riding a bicycle,” says Miranda, 42. “So it was quite easy to make it unstable because I was in control of it. But when the four of us had to turn that corner and then collide, that was quite difficult to make sure we got the timing of it right. But it’s fun. I love all that stuff.”

At the end of series 2, Chummy has a baby herself, a boy called Fred. “I call her yummy mummy Chummy,” laughs Miranda. “She’s a great mum, she loves her kid. Because she didn’t have that much love from her mum, you know. She went to boarding school so young. All that love that she needed when she was younger just poured out into her son. Although I will say that acting with a six-month-old child is challenging.”

Playing a midwife has given Miranda lots of opportunities to handle babies. “Luckily I’ve got a niece, a nephew and three godchildren, so I had experienced little kids,” she says.

“I have never dropped a baby. But it can be hard. You rehearse with a prosthetic baby and feel in control of your acting, then suddenly the real one comes in – you get a toddler who’s wriggling all over the place and pulling on your necklace, and it can be quite tricky.

“And with all the births, it’s so technical and so precise and worked out, that we feel fairly in control of that. Except one child did pee down my glove.”

Asthma attack

When it comes to health, Miranda has admitted live on TV that she has asthma. During a 2011 episode of The Graham Norton Show, she describes how she nearly had an attack while out jogging.

“I made this foolish mistake of going jogging,” she said. “Ten minutes in, I started having an asthma attack – I say 10 minutes, it was five seconds. I needed my asthma spray so I tried to get it out of my shorts pocket and the zip was stuck.”

As she was gasping for breath, Miranda saw a male jogger running towards her and started pointing wildly at her pocket. “He just thought I was weirdly pointing at my crotch and jogged on past,” she joked.

“Then a very nice woman came up to me and asked me if I was alright, and I tried to explain I needed my asthma spray. She was one of those middle-class mums with a baby and had a perfect Cath Kidston nail kit in her Cath Kidston nappy changing bag, so she cut me out – it was really embarrassing.”

Miranda’s Maracattack

The incident may have put her off jogging, but it didn’t deter Miranda from making a fitness DVD – albeit a humorous one.

Described as an unconventional workout regime that blends fun and fitness, the DVD is called Miranda Hart’s Maracattack and includes other characters from the BBC sitcom including Patricia Hodge, Sarah Hadland and Tom Ellis. But it’s not all comedy, as fitness instructor Amelia Watts leads the cardio workouts and strengthening exercises.

So how on earth did the idea for a fitness DVD come about?

“In season three of my sitcom I came across this idea of a maraca class,” says Miranda. “So I though, hang on, new Zumba. Then I really started thinking about it, and it’s actually a brilliant exercise routine because your arms get your heart going, so you don’t need to do too much.

“There are lots of comedy sketches about my attitude to gyms and exercise generally, but it also has some bone fide comedy exercise routines with maracas.”

If you’ve tried fitness DVDs but given up after watching them a few times because you found them boring, Maracattack could be just what you need.

Puppy love

In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs last year, Miranda Hart revealed fame had left her feeling quite lonely and struggling. She has also spoken about her bouts of depression, and how she has to force herself to see things positively.

However, Miranda has found a solution: her dog, a shiatsu cross.

“I love animals, I’m obsessed with my dog,” she says. “She’s so cute. Her name is Peggy, from a favourite book called Peggy and Me.

According to Miranda, writing is an isolating experience. But having a dog forces her to get out of the house.

“Animals make me laugh, they’re so funny. I used to be a terrible pessimist. Everything was just like well, it’s never going to happen, it’s all a disaster.

“Now I wake up and literally picture myself happy every day. The Midwife has done so well; my sitcom’s done so well that the dream’s come true.

“So I’m now getting better, being more positive and seeing what each day brings, and I feel it’s brought me a lot of confidence. I feel very happy. I feel very lucky.”