Maternal cast: First look at Parminder Nagra, Lara Pulver and Lisa McGrillis in new ITV NHS drama series

Meet the cast and characters in ITV’s new medical drama Maternal about three doctors returning to the NHS frontline post-pandemic.

By Alex Fletcher Updated: 16 January 2023 - 2.10pm
ITV Parminder Nagra, Lara Pulver and Lisa McGrillis in Maternal

Parminder Nagra, Lara Pulver and Lisa McGrillis lead the cast of Maternal, a new ITV drama about the NHS frontline post-Covid.

Maternal is a timely new medical drama on ITV which celebrates the heroic work of the NHS frontline.

The six-part series tells the story of three doctors who return from maternity leave to an NHS frontline struggling to cope with the post-pandemic demands.

It’s a drama about motherhood, the NHS and the people who hold it all together, told with wit and warmth by writer Jacqui Honess-Martin.

Here is everything you need to know about Maternal...

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Watch the Maternal trailer

ITV has released the following trailer for the series showing the three main characters as they attempt to juggle family life and their rebooted medical careers. 

Honess-Martin's inspiration was her own experience of returning to work after maternity leave and that of close friends who went back to frontline medicine after having children.

"I just thought, in my job in the theatre industry, the world won't end if I'm not at 100%," she said.

"How are these medics coping when the decisions they're making are life and death? I wanted to investigate how returning to work as a young mother just throws your complete sense of self and your self-confidence. And that's such a huge part of being a medic: trusting in your instincts when you walk into a room."

Meet the Maternal cast

Parminder Nagra – Plays Dr Maryam Afridi

ITV

Where have you seen her before? Bend It Like Beckham, Agents of SHIELD, DI Ray

Dr Maryam Afridi is a Paediatric Registrar who is full of doubt that she can cope with the emotional demands of treating children now that she has her own.

Talking about her character, Nagra said: "She's very good at what she does but is struggling with the conflict of being a mum and being at work, and her husband doesn't seem to want her to go back to work.

"On her first week back, she’s not supposed to see patients yet, but they're so understaffed she gets put in charge of the ward. And before she knows what’s going on she’s thrown in the deep end."

She added:  "I liken playing Maryam to an Alton Towers ride like Oblivion. You're trundling along for a minute, and then you get to the top and you think it’s going to be great, but all of a sudden, it takes a deep dive in terms of emotion, and boy, do we really go there."

Lara Pulver – Plays Catherine MacDiarmid

ITV

Where have you seen her before? Spooks, Sherlock, The Split, Da Vinci’s Demons

Ms Catherine MacDiarmid, played by Lara Pulver, is a single mother and a successful surgeon determined to be one of the boys in the macho world of surgery.

Speaking about her character Catherine, Pulver said: “She’s finding her path in a very male-orientated profession whilst juggling this new area of her life. She has an innate confidence that she is the best person for the job, but the algorithms that work in her job don't work in her day-to-day life anymore, because you can't schedule a nine-month-old baby.”

Pulver added: "This has been a gift of a job for me: not only is the subject matter exactly what we're juggling and dealing with, but it's a gift for us to learn that we can do our jobs to the same high standards and still be present parents.

"I was blessed because I was working with my best friend, Parminder, and my husband [Raza Jaffrey, who plays surgeon Jack Oliviera]. It was the first time we got childcare rather than taking turns working, and it felt right."

Talking about Catherine’s job as a surgeon, writer Honess-Martin said: "The specialty, surgery, chose itself because it's the most sexist and misogynist field of medicine. It's really hard and brutal, being a female surgeon – only 15% of surgeons are women, something like one in seven consultants.

"The statistics are horrific. There is also the massive issue of sexual assaults by male surgeons against female surgeons."

Lisa McGrillis – Plays Helen Cavendish

ITV

Where have you seen her before? King Gary, Somewhere Boy, Avoidance, Mum

Dr Helen Cavendish, played by Lisa McGrillis, a Registrar in Acute Medicine, who is wrestling with a self-prescribed role that sees her mothering everyone in her life

McGrillis described Helen as "super-intelligent, but not in an academic way".

"She works in acute medicine, so she’s got much more of a human instinct when it comes to being a doctor rather than being a textbook medic," she said.

"She can diagnose problems fairly quickly from just reading the room. I think that the audience will probably like her; she’s the kind of doctor that you would want to meet if you were going into hospital and you were frightened, because she's super reassuring."

Talking about how her character has to deal with her husband having an affair with one her colleagues, McGrillis added: "Helen can put on a front and go, ‘OK, I'm just going to swallow this for a bit. I'm going to go in and be the best doctor I can. I'm going to do my ward rounds with a woman that my husband's been having an affair with’.

"If that was me, I would absolutely fall apart! But Helen has an extraordinary strength."

Explaining why she chose acute medicine as one of the specialities, writer Honess-Martin said: "I chose acute medicine because it’s so fascinating. It's a cross between emergency medicine and ICU – you look after people whose ailments can cover anything from Covid to tropical diseases, a suspected heart attack, somebody with a headache you suspect might be a brain tumour. It’s very much about problem solving."

Maternal cast: Full list

ITV
  • Parminder Nagra – Plays Maryam Afridi
  • Lara Pulver – Plays Catherine MacDiarmid
  • Lisa McGrillis – Plays Helen Cavendish
  • Raza Jaffrey – Plays Jack Oliviera
  • Chris Oliver – Plays Guy Cavendish
  • Abhin Galeya – Plays Raz Farooqu
  • Julie Graham – Plays Susan Fisher
  • Alexander Karim – Plays Lards Nordstrom
  • Aurora Jones – Plays Maggie Cavendish
  • Mat Fraser – Plays Steve
  • Hayden Gwynne – Plays Anne MacDiarmid
  • Matilda Ziegler – Plays Becky Hillford
  • Shaheen Khan – Plays Sania Masoom
  • Sabina Arthur – Plays Kim Allerton
  • Dean Ridge – Plays Simon Segman
  • D’Vante Hart – Plays Edward
  • Cheryl Mackie – Plays Mrs Williams
  • Darren Hart – Plays Mr Williams
  • Cleo Sylvestre – Plays Mrs Osei
  • Jennifer Macbeth – Plays Tessa Joseph
  • Elizabeth Dulau – Plays Louise Pennycook
  • Stephanie Jacob – Plays Mrs Smith
  • Joe Thomas – Plays Mat Malyon
  • Guy Rufus Williams – Plays Prof Thomas
  • Bill Skinner – Plays Will
  • Elan Butler – Plays Freddie

Who are the creators and writers of Maternal?

ITV

The series is written by Jacqui Honess-Martin and the lead directors is James Griffiths (Stumptown, Episodes).

Talking about why he wanted to get involved in the project, Griffiths said: "I have a personal connection to the material as both of my sisters have devoted their lives to working for the NHS – one in admin in a lab, and the other as a nurse.

"Having witnessed their experiences through Covid over the past couple years, I instantly felt compelled by this story and became passionate about collaborating with the brilliant team who brought it to light.

"I recognised in Jacqui’s writing the authenticity and the truth in her tone, voices that resonated with stories I had heard from my own family’s experience. I just thought that was a really important story to capture. It was a kind of head and heart decision."

Where is Maternal filmed?

ITV

Although Maternal is set in Manchester, the series was filmed in Liverpool.

Honess-Martin opted not to set the series in Liverpool because it has a famous children’s hospital, Alder Hay, which would have meant it was unrealistic to have the three characters working in the same building.

“It could be set in any cosmopolitan city in the north of England,” said Honess-Martin.

“I really wanted to film it in Leeds, where I live, but there was already too much filming going on.

“We created the hospital in an office block at Liverpool Innovation Park and our surgical theatres were at Edge Hill Health Centre.”

Talking about the challenges of filming, director James Griffiths said: "You rarely get to use an actual hospital, and, basically, we had to film in an office.

"The hospital was created in one office block. Our designer had to turn that one space into three different wards – surgery, A&E and paediatrics – by changing the signs and window treatments for each.

"We’re hoping it;s all done seamlessly so the audience doesn't notice, or recall me saying this."

What is the Maternal release date?

Maternal starts on ITV and ITVX from Monday, 16 January

The series will have six episodes.

All episodes will be available to stream on ITVX at launch.

Watch Maternal on ITV and ITVX from Monday, 16 January