It was a difficult journey back to our screens for Channel 4 sitcom Back, which reunites dynamite comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb, but the second series finally gets underway this month.
For Webb, filming was a life-saving experience, as it was through the routine cast medical check-up that he was alerted of a serious heart condition that could have proved fatal had it gone unnoticed.
Production was delayed while he underwent the necessary treatment before facing another setback last year as the coronavirus pandemic led to a nationwide shutdown in the UK.
Filming finally wrapped last October, with most of the ensemble cast from series one able to return for the new episodes, despite the somewhat erratic scheduling.
Read on for your full briefing on the stars of Channel 4’s Back and where their characters are heading into series two.
David Mitchell plays Stephen
Who is Stephen? Stephen is the biological son of late publican Laurie Nichols, a prominent figure in his local Gloucestershire community. Following his father’s death, he inherits the pub and has big plans for it until supposed foster brother Andrew crashes into his life. Stephen is the only member of his family who doesn’t remember (or like) Andrew, instead being suspicious of his true intentions.
This paranoia ultimately lands him in a psychiatric institution, where he is living at the start of series two. Deemed mentally stable enough to be discharged, Stephen heads back to his old life – but unbeknownst to his therapist, still harbours deep distrust of Andrew and is hatching a new plan to expose him.
What else has David Mitchell been in? David Mitchell rose to prominence in a comedy double act with Robert Webb, starring opposite him in a self-titled sketch series as well as the acclaimed Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show. However, he has also branched out on his own, starring in the BBC Two comedy Upstart Crow and recently appearing opposite Steve Coogan in his satirical film, Greed. Mitchell is one of the regular faces on Would I Lie to You?, alongside rival team captain Lee Mack and presenter Rob Brydon.
Robert Webb plays Andrew
Who is Andrew? Andrew is Stephen’s mysterious foster brother, who claims to have lived with the Nichols family for a brief period in the late 1980s. Upon his sudden and unexpected return, he is welcomed with open arms by the local community – with the exception of Stephen, who doesn’t believe a word he has to say. Andrew won the initial power struggle and takes on a management role at the Nichols family-run pub, the John Barleycorn, but Stephen is on his way back and makes it his mission to bring him down.
What else has Robert Webb been in? In addition to his collaborations with David Mitchell, such as Peep Show and That Mitchell & Webb Look, he has also appeared in sitcom Fresh Meat, The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff and Cold Feet. He has also served as narrator on the likes of Great Movie Mistakes and You Saw Them Here First. On the big screen, Webb played Nick in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.
Penny Downie plays Ellen
Who is Ellen? Ellen is Stephen’s mother who dismisses his concerns about Andrew. After some time mourning her husband’s death, series two finds her with her eyes on a new man.
What else has Penny Downie been in? Downie has cropped up on a number of major shows in recent years, including Ripper Street, Silent Witness, Downton Abbey and Amazon Prime Video’s Absentia. She also portrayed Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester in Netflix’s royal drama The Crown. On the big screen, she recently appeared in Gerard Butler’s action thriller London Has Fallen.
Louise Brealey plays Cassandra
Who is Cassandra? Cassandra – or “Cass” – is Stephen’s sister, who is often found taking up new hobbies in a desperate bid for other people’s approval.
What else has Louise Brealey been in? Brealey is perhaps best known for the role of Molly Hooper on BBC One’s smash-hit drama series Sherlock, which co-starred Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Her other projects include Ripper Street, Clique, A Discovery of Witches and Kate Beckinsale’s ITV drama The Widow.
Geoffrey McGivern plays Geoff
Who is Geoff? Geoff is Stephen’s uncle who regularly hangs around their family pub, the John Barleycorn. He’s a highly opinionated individual with no reservations about speaking his mind, which leads to some truly hilarious moments.
What else has Geoffrey McGivern been in? McGivern’s recent projects include topical comedy series Tracey Ullman’s Show, This Time with Alan Partridge, ITV’s Quiz as well as BBC sitcoms Ghosts and Semi-Detached.
Olivia Poulet plays Alison
Who is Alison? Alison is Stephen’s ex-wife. Although no longer married, the two remain on very good terms and she is frequently a listening ear for his frustrations about Andrew (as well as the rest of his family).
What else has Olivia Poulet been in? Poulet has had recurring roles in BBC One medical soap Holby City and ITV comedy drama Doc Martin. She also appeared in the eighth series of whodunnit Death in Paradise.
John Macmillan plays Julian
Who is Julian? Julian is the town vicar and a friend of the Nichols family.
What else has John Macmillan been in? Macmillan played John Bright on BBC One’s courtroom series Silk and also had a supporting role in Critical, the Sky One medical drama from Jed Mercurio. In the comedy genre, Macmillan portrayed Ronald on Michaela Coel’s sitcom Chewing Gum and has appeared in various roles on sketch show Famalam.
Oliver Maltman plays Mike
Who is Mike? Mike is one of the two regular bartenders at the John Barleycorn, working alongside Jan.
What else has Oliver Maltman been in? Maltman played Nick Piller on the ITV drama Liar and appeared as the Duke of Edinburgh’s private secretary Jim Orr in The Crown. He also portrayed Conservative politician Michael Gove in television film Brexit: The Uncivil War, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Most recently, he has had supporting roles on BBC sitcom Mister Winner and period drama The Alienist: Angel of Darkness.
Jessica Gunning plays Jan
Who is Jan? Jan is the bartender at the John Barelycorn, working closely alongside Mike.
What else has Jessica Gunning been in? Gunning has taken on dramatic roles in ITV’s Jericho, Prime Suspect 1973 and Law & Order: UK, as well as Sky One’s Fortitude. Her earlier comedic work includes supermarket sitcom Trollied.
Anthony Head plays Charismatic Mike
Who is Charismatic Mike? Charismatic Mike is a figure from Ellen’s past who returns to her family pub after hearing about Laurie’s death. He has lived an exciting life and regales people with stories about his adventures.
What else has Anthony Head been in? Anthony Head will be a familiar face to fantasy fans, having been a regular face on the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and BBC One’s Merlin. He also had a memorable guest role on Doctor Who episode School Reunion, which reintroduced beloved companion Sarah Jane Smith. Most recently, he has appeared in critically acclaimed Apple TV+ sitcom Ted Lasso.
Back series two premieres on Channel 4 on Thursday 21st January. While you’re waiting, check out our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.