An Interview with Jason Salkey

Actor and author Jason Salkey speaks with Francesca Tyer about Sharpe, Crimea

and his recently published book.

Jason Salkey, best known for playing rifleman Harris in the hit series Sharpe, was born

in London in the early sixties. His father is a Jamaican poet, novelist, writer and

broadcaster and his mother a Londoner.


Having moved to America at the age of fourteen for his dad’s work, Salkey then

returned to the UK to begin his acting career. With an acting and directing course

already under his belt, he began searching for an agent.


‘I got a good agent after a couple of years,’ Salkey begins. ‘I did a pretty good play at

the Man in the Moon pub called 'Short Eyes'. It’s about a New York detention centre and

was quite controversial at the time.’


In 1988, Salkey landed a role in a campaign for Miller Light Beer UK. The advert was

like a mini-movie and remained on the television for about five years.


‘They used the music ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He's My Brother’ which went to Number One for

two weeks,’ Salkey recalls. ‘That got my face seen everywhere and about four years

after that I landed something called Sharpe, which is why we’re talking at the moment.’


Salkey as Harris (October 1992)


Salkey admits that he knew nothing about the role of Rifleman Harris when faced the

audition in May 1992.


‘I was told by my agents there was an audition for this thing that was shooting in Russia

for 16 weeks,’ he explains. ‘Just 16 weeks of employment was enough to grab my

attention. At the audition, we didn't really talk much about the text or going to Russia or

the Napoleonic War or anything to do with Sharpe really. We just talked about various

things, one of them being my father.


‘In the 60s, my father had worked at BBC World Service. He was a writer and he

was living in America at the time. The director seemed very interested in that. I was

thinking, Well, he's gone off on a tangent. The job’s gone, on to the next one.'


Season 1 - October 1992