He is the one with the video camera - actor Jason Salkey who played the Rifleman Harris in the "Sharpe"-TV-series.

In the new German "Scharfschützen"-DVD-Box (released 8. November 2007 in Germany) we see 10-minute-snippets of his famous "Harris Video Diaries", that have gone now into the 7th episode - every episode a one hour long fascinating piece of filming history.

The following interview is an ongoing project, the first part is now online... - rg/7. Dezember 2007

Renate: You play the Rifleman Harris, one of these common soldiers, in the British Series. How would you describe your character?

 

 
 

Jason: In the film Sharpe’s Rifles Harris describes himself as “a courtier to my lord Bacchus and an unremitting debtor”, but I considered that only scratching the surface of the complex, learned rifleman’s character. He can read, write and break codes; talents that would surely have earned him promotion from the ranks of Chosen Men, yet he seems content with this lowly status. Perhaps he is running from something either back in England or within himself. Life as a Chosen man is cut and dried, life or death, no responsibility other than keeping yourself and comrades alive and victorious.

It is this comfort zone he wants to stay within; the prospect of achieving an officer rank or normal life back in England represented too much in the way of responsibility.

     

Renate: Can you tell us, how you got the idea of starting these Diaries?

 

 
  Jason: I’ve always liked photography and it’s ability to freeze a moment in time. I also liked to keep some of record of major episodes in my life and soon after getting the job of Rifleman Harris I realised Sharpe was going to be just such an event. Unfortunately I didn’t own a video camera when I left for the Crimea on that sunny august morning in 1992 because that first year was one hell of a tumultuous event. Of course, I took hundreds of photos over the first two series, but I realised that to capture the beauty, the craziness, the stupidity and the scale of our operation in the Crimea it needed to be shown in moving pictures. Thus on the third year I packed H-8 video cam along with my still cameras and the Harris Diaries were born.
     

Renate: How many more Diaries will come?

 

 
  Jason: At the moment I’m working on episode eight [H8] which will take us up to the end of the fourth series of Sharpe (Regiment/Mission/Siege). After that I will be cutting footage from my last Sharpe tour which was a bit shorter than usual, so that will be covered in two episodes [H9 and H10]. I think there could be a film made that encapsulates the whole Harris series or perhaps a film that is a precursor to a possible book covering my entire Sharpe life from first audition to the present day; we shall see!
     

Renate: When you go back to the beginnings did you and your actor-colleagues know beforehand that you all would be shipped into a foreign country very far away from England?

 

 
  Jason: Before auditioning for the job we were told that the work would involve going to Russia for 16 weeks which in the early nineties seemed like a very long way away.
     

Renate: How must we see this travelling? I take it you didn't have to walk into the Crimea?

 

 
  Jason: No, they have strict laws about how an actor get to location, but if there weren’t I’m sure the producers would have looked into ways of getting us to walk to Ukraine. Though it would take too long, and in the film business time is money.
We flew to Moscow then on to Simferopol in Ukraine in the first year; from then on we flew direct from London to Simferopol on an Aeroflot/Air Ukraine charter plane. On the first and third years upon completion in the Crimea we flew with another charter to Lisbon, Portugal to film before returning home.
In the last two series of Sharpe we used a UK charter [H5] AND scheduled Turkish airlines flights to get us in and out from Antalya, Adana and Istanbul
.
     

Renate: Since you need a lot more then the actors for filming, how was this done? For example with the costumes, equipment, cameras and so on? What I mean is, did you take all this equipment with you from England? Or did the producers buy it in the Ukraine?

 

 
  Jason: Buy stuff in Ukraine? Ha,ha! No, all bulky equipment from the camera, costume, make up, sound etc departments is packed onto large trucks [see H8] and driven across land to where ever we were based.
     

Renate: Was there a difference between the "stars" and the supporting actors regarding being on location? One hears often, that the star just flies in, does his scenes, and vanishes, and then the other shots are done without him. How can we understand, how this was done on "Sharpe?"

 

 
 

Jason: Well, the stars of Sharpe, for me are Sean and Daragh and they, with some exceptions stayed out on the location for the entire shooting schedule.

Generally actors with large roles stay for the whole thirty days or so that it takes to film an episode; those with smaller, yet significant parts or characters like Simmerson, Ramona, Wellington, Frederickson or Ducos would fly in and out. You couldn’t act ‘starry’ on Sharpe and have a nice time off set with the rest of the unit as well. All the fun was created or facilitated by normal lads such as Lyndon (Perkins), myself and Saint (Rasta boom operator) so most people in search of a good time usually came round to one of us for ‘guidance’ in that direction.

     

Renate: When we see the scenes, that are playing outdoors, that is obviously completely filmed "on location"? And could you tell us, how you came to these locations?

 

 
  Jason: Frequently we were filming half way up a mountain or in a river or valley which we would be driven to in a car. In the first two years all actors were taken to location in cramped, dilapidated and uncomfortable mini buses, for the hour long (and more) drives we undertook twice a day. In later years we complained bitterly until they agreed to put us in cars for the trip to location [H1]
     

Renate: But what is with the scenes indoors? Were these generally filmed in a studio in England?

 

 
  Jason: Only scenes set in England were actually shot in the UK. With the exception of the original dinner party scenes with Blas Vivar and the Rothschilds and the Chosen man eating in a monastery scene from Sharpe’s Rifles. These were filmed in Apethorpe Manor, Stamford with Paul McGann in the title role, but refilmed at a real monastery in Portugal with Sean as Sharpe.
Otherwise interiors, studios or sets were used in Ukraine, Portugal and Turkey [H5] to film any scenes that took place indoors.
     

Renate: I especially wondered about the different scenes that play in tents - they have that look, as if they were really filmed in tents?? Or how were they done?


 
  Jason: More often than not each episode had to feature a camp full of soldiers and rows of their tents [H1, H6) the commander (mostly Wellington) usually had the biggest tent in which we would film all the interior tent scenes. The only exception was when we filmed the Ramona birth scene (Honour) where they set up a canvas tent in the heated lobby of Polikur studios.
     

Renate: What astonished me, was, that the Riflemen were already so clearly defined - I mean, were Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe seem to have to find out, who he is, Harper, Harris, Hagman, Cooper, Tongue and Perkins, they are sure in their Riflemen-lifes, as if they have lived together for some time, and know each other. Do you have an explanation for this?

 

 
  Jason: In the story we are supposed to be on the retreat from Corunna, Portugal during Britain’s first European land battle of the Peninsula War. Harper and the Chosen Men are a unit under the charge of Colonel Dunnett and Capt Murray and fought together for years. Sharpe then gets made a Lieutenant by Wellington and gets detailed to command us and has to get to know us and win our respect.
     

Renate: Was "Rifles" actually the first episode that was shot?

 

 
  Jason: Yes, we did start by filming Rifle’s first, but then we shot scenes from Eagle and kept switching back and forth, mostly because of the change of Sharpe from Paul McGann and Sean Bean.
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Interview with Rifleman Harris

Part 1