Robert Webb is speaking, slightly casually, about how he virtually died all through the making of the a lot not on time and extremely expected 2d season of his sitcom Again. “I went for the forged clinical,” he says, “and the GP put his stethoscope on my center, pulled a face, and mentioned, ‘Attention-grabbing. What have you ever been doing concerning the center murmur?’ And I mentioned, ‘What center murmur?’ Then he referred me – moderately urgently – to a heart specialist, who did a few checks and informed me, ‘I’m now not pronouncing you’re going to have a center assault within the subsequent fortnight – however within the subsequent two to 4 to 6 months, this center will fail.’” He pauses. “In order that were given my consideration.”
What unexpectedly adopted was once emergency surgical procedure to mend his mitral valve, which had a beginning defect, adopted via 3 and a part months signed off paintings. After which, 3 weeks after he returned, Covid took place and the manufacturing was once pressured to close down as soon as once more. The completing touches have been in the end put to the collection in September. However continuity was once slightly compromised. “There are scenes,” says Webb, “the place I glance extremely pasty and bloated and fucked, as a result of my center had virtually doubled in measurement.”
Fortunately, he appears to be like a lot more fit now: thinner, more youthful, extra alert. And it’s nice that Again is, smartly, again, now not least as it provides Webb the risk to play probably the most attention-grabbing persona of his profession: Andrew, a person who enters a group claiming to be the long-lost foster brother of Stephen, the landlord of a pub in Stroud, performed via David Mitchell. It’s by no means made explicitly transparent whether or not or now not he’s, if truth be told, a malevolent however fascinating, mad guy.
“I nonetheless haven’t made up our minds,” says Webb. “And I’ve an instinct that it’s essential I don’t. Is Andrew completely motivated via malice? Is he mainly Devil? Or is it that he had a tricky adolescence, and he’s a folks pleaser, and he simply is going round looking to get consideration from folks in a rather destructive means that he hasn’t actually concept via?”
I would flip up on the pub at noon for lunch, which might be me smoking, ingesting lager and entering fights on Twitter
Within the first collection, Webb needed to do two takes for every scene, one hinting at psychopathy and one now not. This time, they performed it down the center and display Andrew’s human facet as frequently as imaginable. The result’s a sequence that’s hotter, rather. It’s nonetheless very, very humorous. Author Simon Blackwell has controlled to strap on a heftily conventional sitcom to the entire thriller and intrigue, and it’s supported via an excellent forged. I inform Webb how a lot I loved Geoff McGivern’s efficiency as a loudmouth farmer, which reasons him to roll his eyes.
“It’s fucking Tremendous Hans everywhere once more, isn’t it?” he replies, regarding the mildly deranged, scene-stealing persona in Peep Display. “I’m doing the entire fucking arduous paintings: ‘Oh, why now not have just a little extra exposition, possibly I’ll say what’s going to occur within the subsequent scene?’ After which right here comes the humorous actor who everybody likes, pronouncing one thing outrageous, and that’ll be everyone’s favorite persona. Oh, close up, Geoff. Fuck off.’” Webb exhales deeply, simply as I’m beginning to fear about his center, and the whole lot returns to commonplace. “Geoff’s sensible,” he says evenly.
It’s additionally great to peer Webb performing once more for the reason that, across the time of the e-newsletter of his novel Come Once more final spring, he stored pronouncing he was once essentially a novelist now. “I may unexpectedly backpedal from that,” he squirms. It seems that a lot of that call to pick out up the pen was once because of the state of his well being. “Even if it got here as a wonder that I had any such significant issue with my center, I knew I used to be ill,” he says. “I believed, ‘Oh, that is what it seems like while you’re 47 and also you’re actually nonetheless caning the booze and the fags.’ Because of that, I used to be turning down performing paintings as a result of subconsciously I believed, ‘I’m now not are compatible to try this.’ There have been a few West Finish performs I didn’t do as a result of I believed the clicking evening may kill me.”
How badly was once he caning the booze and fags? “I’m just a little uncomfortable with the time period alcoholic,” he says, “as a result of I used to be ingesting precisely the similar as all my buddies. You’re within the pub and you’ve got two or 3 pints, or 3 or 4 pints, or no matter, and you’ve got just a little of a hangover. I used to be doing that during my 20s and 30s. After which, I don’t know, 40, 42, 43. All of sudden, the time of day after I would get started moved previous and previous, till I’d get off the bed at 8 within the morning – there simply wasn’t a foul time of the day or evening to have a drink.”
Even though he’d been fruitlessly making an attempt to kick the booze for some time, center surgical procedure gave him the entire impetus he wanted. “It was once the distance within the domino topple that I wanted,” he says. “They actually became me on and off. They put me beneath basic anaesthetic for lots of, many hours, then introduced me again to existence. It’s an atypical factor, in order that was once the road within the sand for me.”
Webb, who became 48 final September, now runs 3 miles 5 occasions every week and does resistance coaching supervised via cardiac coaches. He not beverages and has surrender cigarettes. This has helped to position him in the suitable way of thinking to take on every other non-public problems. “Having removed a few addictions,” he says, “I’m very conscious that Twitter is an dependancy. And it’s now not one thing that makes me satisfied. I affiliate it with the dangerous previous days, as a result of I used to be by no means happier than when – in fact, I wasn’t satisfied, but it surely was once my addiction to show up on the pub at noon for lunch, which might simply be me smoking and ingesting lager and entering fights on Twitter. It was once a shit strategy to spend the day.”
Beginning fights on Twitter was once one thing that Webb were given moderately just right at, wading in to arguments about Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn and Ukip with thudding regularity. However now he has made up our minds to not submit each opinion that enters his thoughts. “In case you’re speaking about anything else essential, there’s not anything you’ll say that dangerous religion actors gained’t have the ability to put a spin on and say, ‘Take a look at this fucking cockhead guffawing at X, Y, or Z.’ However in case you don’t do this, you then grow to be a kind of DJ. If I’m now not cautious, I’m going, ‘Oh, bear in mind Caramac?’ I may as smartly be Steve Wright. The choice of occasions I’ve began to tweet one thing after which long gone, ‘Oh, close up.’ And if that’s how I believe, then believe how the individuals who can’t stand me will have to really feel.”
Even Webb’s courting with Mitchell has stepped forward. “Going again to 2006 and 2007, once we have been hugely busy and Mitchell and Webb was once in its pomp, we noticed every different each day. For individuals who don’t seem to be in love and don’t seem to be having intercourse, this is a large number of time in combination. So we did get ill of the sight of one another. We by no means had the row – we controlled to keep away from that, but it surely was once difficult.” And now? “It’s sensible, as a result of we get a possibility to pass over every different. Then after I see him, it’s great to peer him for the sake of seeing him.”
Again is not going ever to be the phenomenon that Peep Display was once, however Webb is even moderately pleased with that. “Peep Display was once a actually, actually just right display, and I’m simply very, very proud to be so carefully related to it,” he says. “Portions like Jeremy don’t come alongside frequently. That’s a profession proper there – so as to play that section on TV for 12 years. It was once implausible.”
Whilst it’s a excitement to peer Webb so wholesome and content material, it does come as one thing of a aid to peer that he can nonetheless in finding issues to be grumpy about, equivalent to Again’s tricky manufacturing. “We’re hoping it’s going to cross out in January, however possibly a tsunami will swallow London,” he huffs. “After which there’ll be some other 4 or 5 years earlier than collection 3.”