Who Is the ‘Call the Midwife’ Narrator?


  • Oscar-winner Vanessa Redgrave is the narrator for each episode of PBS’s Call the Midwife. 
  • She also appeared as an older version of the Jenny Lee character in the show’s 2014 Christmas special. 
  • Redgrave has called the show “passionately human.”

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Every episode of PBS’s Call the Midwife begins and ends with a familiar voice, which shares thoughts on the show’s broader themes, including birth, death, love, faith, and the power of community. But who is the Call the Midwife narrator? She’s actually an Oscar- and Emmy-winning actor.

Vanessa Redgrave is the ‘Call the Midwife’ narrator

Call the Midwife, which premiered in 2012, is based on a memoir written by Jennifer Worth, which chronicled her time working as a midwife in London’s impoverished East End in the 1950s. In the show’s early seasons, Jessica Raine portrayed a character named Jenny Lee, a stand-in for Worth. Meanwhile, Vanessa Redgrave provided the voice of “mature Jenny Lee” in each episode’s opening and closing segments. 

Redgrave, who is 85 and won an Oscar in 1978 for Julia, comes from a family of performers. Her parents, Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, were both actors, as were her siblings Corin Redgrave and Lynn Redgrave. Her long-time partner is the Italian actor Franco Nero and her children include the actors Joely Richardson and the late Natasha Richardson, who was married to Liam Neeson. 

Redgrave says the show is ‘passionately human’

Vanessa Redgrave, in white, at an event in 2018
Vanessa Redgrave in 2018 | Elisabetta A. Villa/WireImage

Though Redgrave does not appear on screen, she’s well aware of what’s going on in each episode, she said in a 2021 interview with Radio Times.  

​​“I see my introduction, and we look at the themes and the footage that’s been shot, and a wonderful hands-on producer fills me in,” she said. “It’s about times I can remember: I put myself into it. They’ve got some lovely actors, not only the nuns in Nonnatus House who are brilliant, but all the characters. I believe in them, I trust them. It is passionately human about the rights and dignity of the poorest and least regarded.”

She went on to praise the show as the rare thing that comes along “once in a blue moon” and  “makes everybody think and feel and be more human and genuine. Something that hasn’t got false.”

The actor did appear on screen in the show’s 2014 Christmas special 

While Redgrave typically lends just her voice to Call the Midwife, she did appear on screen in the show’s 2014 Christmas special. The episode, the first after Raine left the show, featured the actor as an older version of the Jenny character in a flash-forward set in 2005. 

Though the younger Jenny had moved on, Redgrave remained with the series and continued to provide her signature voiceover in subsequent seasons, including season 11, which is currently airing on PBS. Production recently began on the 12th season of the show.

New episodes of Call the Midwife Season 11 air Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on PBS. 

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