Robert Webb on his heart operation and returning to work with David Mitchell: “Back saved my life”

Robert Webb opened up about his surgery and professional partnership with David Mitchell in an exclusive interview with Radio Times.

Back series 2 on Channel 4 stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb

Next week, David Mitchell and Robert Webb return to our screens for the second series of their Channel 4 sitcom Back – and Webb has explained how he has the show to thank for saving his life.

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Following a routine medical check-up prior to filming the new season, the comic actor receieved news that he required urgent open-heart surgery after a congenital heart defect was discovered.

He was told his heart would fail within two to six months without the surgery but, thankfully, the operation was a success and Webb is now feeling healthier than he has done for a long time.

“After the diagnosis, I did a week’s filming for reasons I now find inexplicable,” Webb explained in the new issue of Radio Times. “I think it was the actor thing where the show must go on unless you’re literally about to die – but I was literally about to die.

He added, “I’m better than I’ve been for years now. I still make the middle-aged noise when I get up and sit down, but it’s a smaller noise. I stop to smell the flowers, look at clouds and enjoy my family… the clichés are all true, but you can’t go around being permanently enthralled.

“Long term, getting rid of the addictions was the main thing – I came out with a newfound respect for my internal organs. It gives you a perspective that the work isn’t very important, once you’ve got to a certain level.

“I’ve been reading, pottering, doing housework and exercise, spending time with the kids. It’s all very wholesome.”

And he revealed the changes are obvious to him when watching Back – saying he looks much more healthy now than he did during the early days of filming.

“The continuity with my face on Back is interesting,” he said. “In the rough edit I look bloated and pasty, knowing I’m about to have a heart attack.

“Four months after the op, there’s a difference in pallor. My heart has gone back to the right size and shape after doing extraordinary things to keep the show on the road. Back saved my life.”

As for his co-star, David Mitchell has revealed that his reaction to finding out the news of his friend’s condition.

“Robert told me early on in filming. He knocked on the door of my trailer and said, ‘I need to have a word.’ It was very worrying news and I went into denial.

“It allowed me to think he was effectively having antibiotics and he’d be fine. The fact that the ‘antibiotic’ was open-heart surgery, I pushed from my mind. The balance of probabilities favoured his being OK, so I clung to that. It’s how I weathered the stress. And it’s gone so well – I was aware he wasn’t living the healthiest of lives, so I’m pleased he’s living a healthy life now.

“It’s always easier to be nice about Rob to other people, so I can say to you that Rob’s heart operation has reminded me how grateful I am to have him in my life.”

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Read the full interview with Robert Webb and David Mitchell in this week’s Radio Times, out tomorrow. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.