“I only ever wanted to be a surgeon.” “Then why did you become a mother?” This exchange, during the first episode of new ITV series Maternal, gets to the heart of a show that explores working motherhood through the lives of three doctors returning from maternity leave to work in the cash-strapped, post-pandemic NHS. As it follows trauma surgeon and single mum Catherine (Lara Pulver), paediatric registrar Maryam (ER and Bend It Like Beckham’s Parminder Nagra) and acute medicine registrar Helen (Mum star Lisa McGrillis) making life-and-death decisions on the healthcare front line while managing the stress, anxiety, joy and chaos of the early months of parenthood, the series maintains a warmth and humour.
But, says Lara Pulver – best known as Irene Adler in Sherlock – it also maintains a quietly political edge.
The Big Issue: How did you enjoy making Maternal?
Lara Pulver: We filmed in Liverpool last year and were blessed with a beautiful summer. I was working on this idyllic job with my husband [co-star Raza Jaffrey] and my best friend [Nagra]. My husband is from Liverpool, so every weekend we were with all his aunties, cousins and uncles. It was like a massive
How did you manage to engineer all that?
The job was the catalyst. I had to audition on a Zoom call so I asked Parminder, who is a dear friend and lives across the street, to read opposite me. Normally, you read with the casting director, but the pace of the dialogue Jacqui [Honess-Martin] writes is such that if there was even a slight delay on the call, the scene doesn’t land and I’m not getting the job. We had the loveliest hour doing my audition, then the next day they asked if Parminder would be interested in playing Maryam. A week later, she auditioned with my husband reading in for her, and, to cut a long story short, we all got the job!