Interview: Call the Midwife star Jessica Raine on accents, Kevin Spacey and taking to the stage

The actress says she'd be laughed at if she went onto the Call The Midwife set with any 'what's my motivation?' pretensions

Tell me a bit about your character Beatie in the play Roots.

She left home in Norfolk at 16 to work as a waitress, and then moved to London to work after that, so she's 22 now and has been away from the family home for a long time and met a boy called Ronnie who's got all these ideas about socialism that are completely alien to her.

So it's about changing attitudes at the end of the Fifties?

It is: they've gone on that march against the H-bomb, the Aldermaston march, and I get the feeling they're part of quite a bohemian world in London, that she loves, with the political meetings, and they're working really hard and are really skint. But then she comes back to her family who are stuck, living very happily in deepest, darkest Norfolk.

You're good at accents, aren't you? I had a bit of a stalk…

Did you?!

I wasn't outside your door! I just saw it on your agent's website. Do you find them easy?

Not at first, but I do have an ear because I grew up in Herefordshire on the borders with Wales so it was neither one nor the other. I was always told at school I was posh, then I came to London and here I'm told I have a country accent.

Do you have a favourite accent?

I quite enjoyed doing a New York accent for [the Clifford Odets play] Rocket to the Moon. Some might argue it wasn't so good.

Have you been enjoying being in the theatre again?

I can't tell you how much I love being back rehearsing. Schedules on TV are so tight and it feels like they get tighter and tighter with every passing year. The idea of asking where your character's come from or where they grew up – you would just get a little bit laughed at.

Is it more like "Just read your lines, darling"?

"Hit your marks! Please! On the first take, and then we can move on." Kevin Spacey did a huge speech in Edinburgh, and his shtick was just because you can go fast doesn't mean you should go fast, which I think a lot of production companies should take note of. But here, I could have wept! We were sat around a table talking about our characters and the themes of the play and it's like being back in school again doing your favourite subject.

You're in Call the Midwife, the BBC's hugely popular drama; is there a lot of pressure?

I don't think there's any more pressure than there would be for any other TV thing – that's just the way it is. They want to get five to six pages down in a day, which is a hell of a lot. Personally, I think it's not good. Spend the time, you know? It's just relentless. I'm not moaning, because it is a bloody amazing job. What people's perceptions of you are when you come out of something like that, that's been the most interesting thing.

When the interview with you was confirmed, we were sent an interesting portfolio of photographs by Guy Aroche.

Oh God! Those?

Are we in for a Raine rebrand?

Ha, ha… Did you see all of them? Some of them were quite raunchy.

They were. The album should have been titled Make it Raine.

Here Comes the Raine Again is my favourite one.

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Biography

Jessica Raine, born in 1982, is best known for playing Nurse Jenny on BBC1's Call the Midwife. She takes the lead role of Beatie Bryant in the Donmar's new production of Arnold Wesker's Roots, running until 30 November

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