Fans of The Royal will be tuning in to the new series of the Heartbeat spin-off to watch the drama of Dr Jill Weatherill's pregnancy unfold.
But actress Amy Robbins, who plays the pregnant doctor, will be watching the show with a slightly different agenda.
“It’s been interesting watching the first episode because I was looking at my stomach all the way through trying to work out how pregnant I was,” laughs Amy, who gave birth to baby May in December.
“I can tell between one scene and the next that it was done two or three weeks apart – my stomach goes from nothing to suddenly sticking out.
“So that will be my entertainment for the whole series – watching my stomach go in and out and trying to remember how pregnant I was.”
May is the second daughter for Amy and her husband (both on-screen and off) Robert Daws. The couple, who met on set when The Royal first started in 2002, also have a baby daughter Betsy, who was born a year later.
As The Royal’s success has continued, Amy and Robert’s family life has become entwined with the show. They now divide their time between their base in London and living in Leeds while filming The Royal.
“Working together is very convenient,” says Amy, “which is a terrible word to use, but it is.”
“It’s vaguely schizophrenic isn’t it?” adds Robert. “Because we spend half the year down here in London and then we move up and make home up in Leeds. That’s one of the advantages of working together in as much as we can do that.
“And because the children are pre-school age we’re not locked into schools. We just spend half the year in Leeds and it feels like home and then we come down south and that feels like home too. It seems to work.”
But filming of this series of the Royal was not so convenient that Amy’s character’s pregnancy coincided exactly with her real one.
“I found out I was pregnant pretty much when we started filming,” says Amy. “I was actually about seven months pregnant when I supposedly had just got pregnant on-screen. So there was a lot of people standing in front of me trying to shield this big bump.”
“It was very nerve-wracking telling the bosses the news,” recalls Robert. “We had to announce it to Steve Frost, our new producer, on the week that we were starting. But luckily, Steve being Steve, he just said, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll just work it in’.”
“Instead the worst thing was acting being in labour,” says Amy. “I didn’t want to push too hard in case something happened. I was about seven months pregnant and I had to do the full throes, the latter stages of labour.
“And I remember thinking that I was willing to do this not very realistically because I don’t want anything to pop out. It’s all psychosomatic and if you start thinking about it you don’t know what’s going to happen. It was a bit hair-raising.”
It’s not the first time art has mirrored life for the couple. When Amy was pregnant with Betsy her bump was kept hidden from viewers, but the couple did have to re-live their wedding on screen when Amy’s character Jill got married to Robert’s Dr Gordon Ormerod in the last series.
“Usually we’re able to draw the line between our on and off-screen relationship but that day was different,” says Amy. “It felt strangely not strange. I blubbed all the way through it, just like I did the first time.”
Robert adds: “It was weird to watch that episode because we chose not to have our own wedding filmed and awful lot of people who were at our real wedding were in the scene.”
“Including my mum and dad,” interrupts Amy. “We got them in for fun. Mum spent all day doing exactly as she did on my real day – checking my skirt was okay.”
In fact the couple’s lives are so intertwined with the show it was an easy decision for them to come back and do a fifth series, even though Robert’s character’s life was left hanging in the balance at the end of the last run.
“There was a possibility of me not coming back until I was told there wasn’t,” laughs Robert. “But no, there was a cliff-hanger, but we always knew that the character had to continue for at least a few episodes more into a new series. How that developed into a whole series I don’t know,” he jokes.
“And I of course just seem to be in eternal state of pregnancy,” adds Amy, “so working on this show is just like Groundhog Day for me, I’m used to it. I don’t seem to remember a day I was in The Royal when I wasn’t pregnant.”
“Sorry,” laughs Robert.
Inevitably the children get a look in with some on-screen action as well. As well as May appearing as a bump this series, we’ve already seen Betsy in a previous episode, and Benjamin, Robert’s son from his previous marriage to actress Amanda Waring, stars in this new series.
“Ben plays a hippy child,” says Robert. “We had a family day of filming, actually, because my father turned up to chaperone him and he was enlisted to play a senior hippy.
“So being on the show was a condition of May coming out,” he adds jokingly. “She knew the rest of the family had appeared so she has a contract out already.”
Despite combining their working and family lives so well, Amy and Robert are having all the trouble that any family coping with a new arrival has, and as such they haven’t even begun to think about more additions.
“Just getting here today was a mission,” laughs Amy. “As anyone with young kids will know, trying to get out, even for an hour or two, is like a military operation with sterilisers and bags and nappies.”
“It’s a bit like the royal tournament,” says Robert.
“It’s a knockout, yeah,” nods Amy. “But we’re no more hectic than anyone else. We’re just trying to deal with little kids and get them in and out of rooms and nappies.”
“And that’s just me,” laughs Robert.
“Ask me about a third child when I’ve had more than four hours sleep at any one time,” continues Amy. “Never say never again but I’d give it a while. I’d like to get my figure back first. At least something resembling a waistline.”