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Life according to: Peep Show and Back stars… David Mitchell and Robert Webb

© S Meddle/ITV/ShutterstockDavid Mitchell and Robert Webb.
David Mitchell and Robert Webb.

The double act on health scares, being reunited on screen, and their complex characters. 

Robert, did you have any indication anything was wrong before you were told you needed heart surgery?

Robert: I knew something was up, but I just thought that’s what it feels like to be 47. It turned out my mitral valve had completely prolapsed which isn’t a lifestyle thing, it’s a birth defect, but at some point it went “twang”. .

What can you tell us about Stephen and Andrew in this new series of Back?

Robert: Andrew is now in charge of the John Barleycorn (the family business). He’s got what he wanted, he’s pushed Stephen all the way out – and now he’s bored and looking around for someone else to pick on.

David: The key to a good sitcom is that the people are stuck together, in some way – but that way is not harmonious.

It must be fun doing the scenes where your characters are so vitriolic to each other?

David: Playing a scene of loathing, that’s great fun. It so seldom happens in real life. So getting to have scenes of straightforward animosity, goodness knows that’s probably doing me all sorts of good. It should be on the NHS.

Back explores the impact of our childhoods. Can you imagine what you’d be doing now if you’d stayed where you grew up?

David: I grew up in Oxford, and my brother lives a two-minute walk from my parents. That works well, they get a lot of free baby-sitting – well, they did pre-lockdown. I could literally live there because it’s quite close to London.

Robert: I’m from a couple of little villages in Lincolnshire where I’m not sure that I could have stayed and been a comedy actor and writer because it is a bit out of the way. It’s swings and roundabouts because I would have got to hang around with my family, which would have been great. As I get older, I feel that loss, that we’re not together. And that’s partly what Back is about.

There’s a moment where Andrew and Stephen get competitive in a quiz. Are you two competitive?

Robert: Not about pub quizzes. David’s general knowledge is better than mine. And whenever I think I’m about to win something, that’s when something implodes in my head. I was quite good at ten-pin bowling, then I realised I was in the lead and I ended up coming last.

David: As a double act, I think we were competitive with everyone else. The joint Mitchell and Webb ego was greater than the competing egos. So, as long as we thought we were doing a funnier sketch show than any another double act, then we were happy.

Back returns to Channel 4 on Thursday, 10pm