Sister Monica Joan
Born into a leading titled family, Sister Monica Joan was one of the first women in Britain to qualify as a midwife. In the closing years of the 19th century, this was seen as a radical act. Her additional decision to become a nun scandalized her relatives, who never came to terms with her life choices. Sister Monica Joan dedicated her entire adult life to providing midwifery services to the poor of the East End. Now in her 90's, Sister Monica Joan has retired from practice, but lives full-time at Nonnatus House, cared for by her fellow sisters. She has an eccentric, mercurial personality, and is obsessed with cake, astrology and knitting, in no particular order.
Sister Monica Joan is played by Judy Parfitt.
Q+A with Judy Parfitt
What are your favorite scenes to film?
I like scenes when Sister Monica Joan is being a bit naughty; when she’s nicking things and being mischievous! What is the relationship like between Sister Monica Joan and the other nuns and midwives? They’re all very protective of her but she wants to pull her weight. She gets fed up with Sister Julienne not treating her as someone who is an attribute. Sister Monica Joan wants to be doing things and Sister Julienne is always trying to protect her and stop her from doing them.
How is it to play her failing health scenes?
I hope I strike the right note playing her. The reason I’ve got for why she behaves that way is that when she’s not feeling well, when she’s stressed and very tired her mind starts playing her up.
How much pressure do you feel to keep true to the character she is based on?
You have to be very careful about keeping it truthful, fresh and alive all the time. You have to play each scene like you’ve never played anything like it before.