David Mitchell has discussed how refreshing it is to work with fellow Peep Show star Robert Webb “after a bit of a gap”.
Mitchell returns to TV screens next week for a second series of BBC 2 sitcom Upstart Crow, written by Ben Elton, in which he depicts William Shakespeare continuing his quest to make his name as a playwright in Tudor London.
He will also be seen in Channel 4’s new dark comedy Back, which stars Webb as his estranged foster brother.
Mitchell, 43, said it was nice returning to work with Webb after working together “so intensively” in previous years.
He said: “We worked together so intensively, about ten years ago … every day we worked together. And that caused tension, there’s no doubt.
“We felt we were onto a good thing and we tried to be nice but we get slightly … got on each other’s nerves. But, no, it’s nice coming back and working with him after a bit of a gap, and with other things going on for both of us.
“It’s sort of perfect, and it’s fun, and you realise there’s that familiarity, but at the same time you’re not absolutely sick of the sight of each other.”
The upcoming Christmas special of Upstart Crow, which was first commissioned by the BBC as part of the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death last year, sees Emma Thompson appear as Queen Elizabeth I.
The Elizabethan sitcom also shows Shakespeare having to commute back and forth to see his family in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Mitchell, who is married to writer Victoria Coren Mitchell and became a father to daughter Barbara in 2015, said having a family helped with the depiction of the work/life balance.
“It helps that I’m playing him (Shakespeare) now I’ve got a daughter and I’m married because I understand more of, you know, the pressures of family life, whereas previously I was just focused on work all the time and if I could do nearly enough washing, I was happy,” he said.
Mitchell said writer Elton has managed to create Shakespeare as the sitcom loser, which is “perfect” for him as a character.
“It’s interesting that Shakespeare, he’s slightly closer to a winner than I’m usually comfortable with, on the basis that he did, in the overall scheme of things, pretty well.
“But Ben has managed to create him as the sitcom loser and that is, you know, perfect for me.”
He added: “I love playing the downtrodden, angry one really. I find that funny and I hope helps me make it funny.
“It’s one of the great thing about comedy, in comedy the losers are the elite, you know. That’s not true in other genres. I’ve done alright out of that and I’m not complaining.”
Upstart Crow starts on Monday September 11 at 8.30pm on BBC Two