Meeting Jason

On Tuesday, the 6th February 2007, at long last, I met "Rifleman Harris" aka actor and film author Jason Salkey.

There would have been possibilities before - Jason was for example at the Sharpe Conventions of the last years - but I always missed these occasions. After writing about the "Harris Diaries" on this website, which also meant watching the diaries multiple times, I had become really curious on the person behind the "Rifleman".

 
     

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One of my theories about people is, that when you look at the work, a person is doing, you learn something essential about him or her. And about Jason, what I saw through his films, was a big honesty and a dedication to what he is doing.

So, what would it be like, to meet him in Person? And on this short trip to London, suddenly everything worked in my favour, and so, here I am, at a tube-station in London, the meeting point.

Jason is already there. After a short greeting, he asks me to hop into his little grey car and - big surprise - invites me to come to his house! All his Sharpe memoria are there, and I could see them. Well, what is a girl, who's website is in big parts dedicated to Sharpe's World, supposed to answer to an invitation like that?

Must anybody ask? :-)

On the drive, a lively conversation about god and the world - or backgrounds, politics and football - develops, and that's Jason-discovery No 1:

He is easy to talk with.

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At his house, which is the epithome of an English home (at least seen with continental eyes): a terraced two storey red brick building, he leads me into the combined living room / kitchen, a cosy room filled with sunlight, where I feel immediately at home. I do get the promised cup of tea and a tour around the rooms. And Jason has not lied about his dedication to Sharpe: I do see: The Harris Diaries, ready to be sent on demand into every part of the world, the computer, where the work on them is done, and the items, Jason has gotten from fans: little Riflemen with carrot red hair, things like that.

And: Fotos. Sharpe Pictures everywhere. Big prints framed at the walls. Professional black and white shots, small fading colour pictures, a lovely drawing of the Rifleman Harris. And: 9 Volumes of photoalben from all the filming years of Sharpe!! My God, 9 books full of memories in pictures, mixed with newspaper-clippings, funny descriptions, suiting headlines... Here, the whole world of the crazy life on and off screen unfold before my eyes. Sitting at the kitchen counter with my cup of tea I look through them, and together with Jasons comments and sad or happy memories, I'm deeply drawn into the World of Filming Sharpe.

 

 

Jason Salkey in the kitchen of his house in London, together with several photoalben, pictures, and a cup of tea... oh, yes, and me, on the other side... you just have to look back over your shoulder, then you see me... :-)
photo by: rg/6. Februar 2007

 
   

Since there isn't much - so far, but that might change - of the early years of Sharpe (Jason had his video camera with him only from the 3d year on) that's the part, were we linger on the longest. I do know now a lot more about the first "campaign" in 1992, when they all went from good old England into the unknown wilderness of the Crimea. A part of the world, that was until 1989 forbidden territory for all Westerners. It's eerie, to see the actors packed into tents, waiting to play soldiers, who live exactly in such tents!!

You are with full force confronted with the theme, that will go through all the Sharpe Films and the Harris Diaries: Where ends reality, where starts the fiction? Even the McGann accident fits into that scheme and a little riddle has solved for me now: Wasn't there always a sort of laid back reaction, when the talk came to Paul McGann? Was it perhaps, that Paul McGann was more favoured from his collegues, then Sean Bean was? Well, I can say now: No, it's not that, but a more subtle reaction, and since Herr Salkey will cover that, I think, in one of his Diaries, I won't go into detail here. But here, I learned something more about Jason:

He is a very perceptive person with a keen eye for details and human behaviour.

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While looking further through the Fotoalben, Jason, a sportsman from his college years on, is bursting with energy. He is already looking for some special pictures, and where was the video with the rough draft of the next Harris Diary? With 6' 1" he is of a height, that is neither remarkably tall or small, and no, not an ounce of fat, it seems, under this loose t-shirt and comfortable trousers.

He is a red head with just that little bit of grey in his hair to make him really authentic looking and about one million freckles spread all over his face. He looks, in real, like he looks on screen, only somehow better, and if I wouldn't know, that his birth year is somewhere in the first part of the Sixties, I would bet, that he hasn't passed his mid thirties yet.

In England his face is a wide and far known one, since he lent it to a commercial beer campaign for "Millers Lite" in the 1980's. Jason, a born English, went at the age of 14 with his parents to America, when his father a writer, poet, radio broadcaster, got a job teaching poetry and creative writing in New England, USA. He staid there for the next nine years, and this experience with a foreign culture might explain this air of openness and easyness around him.

 

 
   

Nearly 2 (!) hours have gone by, and my visit is coming to an end. Jason has already done a lot with the Diary No 7, and I get an exclusive look into it. The commentary is still to be made, certainly the most difficult part, because it has to bring all parts together, give meaning to the pictures and express Rifleman Harris' thoughts about it. This Diary is about the filming of Sharpe's Revenge, Sean Bean is in it and we will learn again more about that big adventure that was the Filming. Oh, and yes, I also have learned a few details more about Herr Bean. You want to know? Well, in essential, that he is that shy man, we meet also in the Harris Diaries. Look at them, and you know what I mean. And also, I have this theory about people: that when you look at the work, a person is doing, you learn something essential about him or her.

Here, you have the unique chance, to have a look at the work of Sean Bean, and at the same time, how he is doing this work! Don't miss it. The new Diary will come hopefully around May of this year.

...double self portrait of Jason and me - photo by rg/06. Februar 2007

In the end, Jason insists on driving me to the next Underground station. I do get the farewell kisses, right and left, give them back in good order and say a last good bye. Full of everything I have seen and learned, I carefully carry the envelope with the special autographed fotos (you can order them also on the Rifleman Harris Site) and try to come back to reality. Yes, I think, sitting in the underground train back to my hotel, this Jason, English, American, Sportsman, Actor, Film Author, he is, what I thought, honest and dedicated in his work, and he is -I can't find a better word, and after all, we are in England - a Gentleman...

   
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rg/01. März 2007