Cliff Parisi on Call the Midwife's 10th Christmas special

Cliff Parisi in the Market Place in Saffron Walden, Essex

Cliff Parisi in Saffron Walden - Credit: Will Durrant

"I've been Santa on the BBC's Christmas Day viewing for the last 20 years."

Cliff Parisi has played Fred Buckle since Call the Midwife began in 2012. The Saffron Walden actor returns to the show on Christmas Day when the hit TV series will celebrate its 10th seasonal special.

"I'm doing what I love day in, day out, and that's the most important thing for me," he said. "And I'm glad to be back in the Santa suit this Christmas. It has become a tradition."

Fred Buckle, played by Cliff Parisi, dressed in a woolly hat and scarf for Call the Midwife's Series 11 Christmas special

Fred Buckle (Cliff Parisi) returns to our screens on Christmas Day - Credit: BBC/Nealstreet Productions/Sally Mais

Cliff Parisi was in EastEnders as Minty Peterson in the decade leading up to 2010, when it topped Christmas TV ratings.

Call the Midwife took the top spot between 2016 and 2018.

Only The Queen's Christmas Broadcast surpassed the show last year for watching figures.

"Call the Midwife is a massive show. It has become a part of so many people's Christmas for the past decade.

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"Its success is down to Heidi Thomas, whose writing is fastidious. She is inspiring!

"And it tugs at the heartstrings. I accidentally burst into this year's press screening. The last 10 minutes was a rollercoaster ride and left all those hard-nosed journalists in tears."

Three nurses from Call the Midwife on a Nativity set

This year's Call the Midwife Christmas Special is "bittersweet", says Cliff Parisi. Picture: Ray Burmiston - Credit: BBC/Nealstreet Productions/Ray Burmiston

This year, Cliff Parisi will spend Christmas with his family near Saffron Walden in their new home.

He moved into the town five years ago before settling in the countryside.

"I feel like I belong!

"There's a community spirit here, particularly at Christmas.

"Everyone chips in by supporting one another, small shops and the town events.

"Just look at the Market Place - I would sit there and chat to the people walking past all day if I could!"

Actor Cliff Parisi shows off a Saffron Walden Christmas pudding outside the Town Hall.

Cliff Parisi shows off a Saffron Walden-branded Christmas pudding - Credit: Will Durrant

He added: "Everyone in the family gets a new set of pyjamas on Christmas Eve.

"For me, Christmas Day is all about playing with the kids all day, building Lego and Scalextric sets.

"I'm looking forward to my new socks and pants."

Since moving to Saffron Walden, Cliff Parisi has taken part in charity fundraisers for youth sports groups and contributed to small business projects.

He said: "I don't do tons of community stuff for charity, but that's how I've met lots of people.

"I try to give back when I get the time.

"The 10Ks are great motivators, but at a purely selfish level, they probably keep me alive!"

Cliff Parisi smashes his Couch to 5k at Herberts Farm football pitches ion Saffron Walden

Cliff Parisi smashes a Couch to 5K for Saffron Walden Community Youth Sport Club’s new 3G artificial grass pitch - Credit: Celia Bartlett Photography

He explained that despite swapping the city for Saffron Walden, he is still a London boy at heart.

"People say I'm 'type-cast', but that means that I'm being cast!

"I've been lucky and unlucky in ways. I've always been tied up in shows that run and run and run, and I've always played fifth-lead.

"I've never had my own cop show or drama, which I would love.

"I'm proud of what I do, though. When I left school, I was fairly illiterate.

"I never trained as an actor, but I took evening classes.

"I met Andy Linden and we landed on the London comedy circuit.

"The rest is history and I've worked with the likes of Johnny Depp, Alison Steadman, Jim Broadbent.

"Miriam Margolyes has got to be on any actor's bucket list, hasn't she?!"

This year's celebrations should be a "far cry" from his least favourite Christmas morning, which he spent in a van.

"Years ago, I had a removal firm which employed unemployed actors.

"It was called Exit Stage Left and I had a van which was full of my stuff, because I was moving house.

"I had a row with my then-girlfriend on Christmas Eve and decided to sleep in my van.

"The shutter crept down overnight, and the little tab had flipped over.

"So, Christmas morning, I was stuck with just my furniture!

"I had to wait until the pub next door opened to be let out!"

Call the Midwife returns to BBC 1 on December 25 at 8pm.

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