The healing power of music for Healy

Benidorm: Lesley [Tim Healy]. Credit: Tiger Aspect Productions

Benidorm: Lesley [Tim Healy]. Credit: Tiger Aspect Productions - Credit: ITV / Tiger Aspect

Tim Healy plays Les - and Lesley - in ITV's hit sitcom Benidorm and will return for the 10th series after illness

Tim Healy's scenes as Les (and indeed, Lesley) in Benidorm could very well have been his swansong as an actor when he was left fighting for his life after being struck down by a mystery illness while filming.

The 64-year-old fell ill during series nine of the hit show, which began last week and continues on ITV tonight at 9pm, and spent three months in hospital in Spain before being airlifted back to a specialist unit in Manchester.

Due to filming schedules, episodes which were due to include Healy were swiftly rewritten and he doesn't appear in the latter part of the series: but he hopes to be back for series 10 after making a miraculous recovery.

'We've been going for such a long time now that whenever we go back it feels like returning home,' said Healy.

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'I've been there for six years and it's such a great team, we always have such a great time. Everything started off brilliantly and then sadly I fell ill and missed that last few episodes, which was very sad, especially for Derren who had to scrap everything he had written for me.'

The actor, known for his starring roles in Auf Wiedersehen Pet and Coronation Street, had previously fallen ill while filming for Benidorm when, in 2011, he was rushed to hospital for life-saving surgery after being diagnosed with intermittent claudication, which caused arteries in both his legs to become blocked.

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He was advised by doctors at the time to stop smoking.

Last May, Healy was taken to hospital again after falling ill and his condition rapidly deteriorated, becoming life-threatening. Wife Joan kept a bedside vigil, while ex-wife and mother of his two children (one of whom is Matt Healy, frontman of rock band The 1975) flew out to Spain to visit him.

'There were complications at the hospital and I ended up in intensive care,' he said, 'I was in a coma for days, so obviously I don't remember any of it.

'My wife was in bits, as you can imagine. She said that while I was in a coma she kept playing my son's music to me, she had his album on a loop. After a few days I started smiling and then I came round, so it was my son's music that brought me back to the land of the living.'

Healy added that Benidorm cast members were hugely supportive, sending messages and gifts throughout and regularly phoning him: 'Adam (Gillen, who plays Les' son Liam), he calls me dad, and I very much see him as a son, he was in bits. He called me on Father's Day and I can't tell you how amazing that was. He's such a lovely lad.'

Recovery, he said, had been slow.

'I'm feeling so much better, I'm on the mend. It's been a long few months and we've really been through the ringer as a family, but we've come out the other side and I'm starting to work again,' said Healy.

'I lost about three stone, which is good but I wouldn't recommend losing it the way I did! I've put a stone back on, but where I was a pit bull terrier, I'm now a sparrow! 'I'm still very weak: the problem is that when you're in hospital for a length of time, just lying in a bed, then you lose your muscle. I've gone from being quite a stocky guy to having skinny legs and arms. I'm building them up, but it's going to be a slow process.

'Mentally I'm absolutely fine, I feel sharp but it's my body that's taking time to catch up. The doctors say it's going to take me at least a year to get myself back full strength. I just want to get back to work, get back to Benidorm.

'It's made me feel very blessed for the life that I have. Health-wise I don't smoke anymore, and I don't drink anymore either. The weird thing is that all of a sudden, and I can't understand why, but I can't stand the taste of any alcohol.

'I use to love my beers, but it doesn't matter what I try now, it tastes awful. So basically I'm saving a fortune because I don't smoke and I don't drink anymore! I don't miss it, to be honest with you, so some good has come out of all this. I wouldn't have recovered without my brilliant wife Jo, who was fantastic throughout the whole thing.'

Healy admitted that he is yet to find out how writers accounted for Les' disappearance and will wait until the scenes air to find out.

'I've been so poorly that I have been out of the loop,' he said, 'I came off set that day and then went to hospital, that was it, I don't know how Derren wrote me out. I'm going to have to wait and see it like viewers.

'I feel very bad though, for causing him such a headache with all those re-writes. ITV and everyone at Benidorm have been so amazing to me this last year with all my health problems.

'We're a family on that show, there's a loyalty there, so if they want me, and a 10th series is commissioned then I want to be there. I've got my bags packed already, I'm itching to be back there! I love that job and I love Benidorm.'

Tony Maudsley- who plays hot pants-loving hairdresser Kenneth Du Beke in the show - explained: 'He's on the mend now because we know he's coming back for series 10. Series 10 has been confirmed, Tim's been confirmed. So he's definitely on the mend.'

* Benidorm continues on ITV tonight at 9pm.

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