Months after emergency surgery saved his life, the comedian is returning with his sitcom Back. He talks about acting with a swollen heart – and why he’s given up booze, cigarettes and Twitter

Robert Webb is talking, rather casually, about how he almost died during the making of the much delayed and highly anticipated second season of his sitcom Back. “I went for the cast medical,” he says, “and the GP put his stethoscope on my heart, pulled a face, and said, ‘Interesting. What have you been doing about the heart murmur?’ And I said, ‘What heart murmur?’ Then he referred me – quite urgently – to a cardiologist, who did a couple of tests and told me, ‘I’m not saying you’re going to have a heart attack in the next fortnight – but in the next two to four to six months, this heart will fail.’” He pauses. “So that got my attention.”

What swiftly followed was emergency surgery to fix his mitral valve, which had a birth defect, followed by three and a half months signed off work. And then, three weeks after he returned, Covid happened and the production was forced to shut down once again. The finishing touches were finally put to the series in September. But continuity was somewhat compromised. “There are scenes,” says Webb, “where I look incredibly pasty and bloated and fucked, because my heart had almost doubled in size.”

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