A memoir from the actor who played Rifleman Harris on Sharpe's Rifles
In the summer of 1992, Jason Salkey was cast in a role that would change his life forever. Sharpe’s Rifles, a Napoleonic war drama, was to be shot in the Crimean Peninsula. However, little did they know that the producers had unwittingly sent the crew to film in the rapidly disintegrated Soviet Union. There, Jason and the crew faced near starvation and danger hovering just over every horizon as they went on to create one of Britain’s most successful and critically acclaimed television programmes.
From Crimea with Love documents the mishaps, blunders, incompetence and downright corruption that made Sharpe’s Rifles go down in British television and film production folklore for its tales of hardship, disaster and chaos only rivalled by the Ukraine itself.
Follow Jason and the cast of Sharpe through intense depravation, hardship and impending catastrophe until they become every bit of the jaded, battle-hardened soldiers we saw on screen. Tapping into his written diaries, photo journal and video log, Jason Salkey brings you an eye-opening, jaw-dropping insider’s account of one of the best-loved shows ever made.
My name is Jason Salkey and I’m a Sharpe-aholic. Despite repeated interventions and countless trips to rehab I can’t shake my Sharpe habit; I’m a fan boy, still hooked. I’ve bought three box sets in different languages, I’ve read all the novels twice and I’ll quite happily settle into an episode of Sharpe when I alight upon one during satellite channel hopping.
How did I acquire this monkey on my back, what lead me down the path of Sharpe addiction? Where can I begin to explain the odyssey that constituted my time on Sharpe; a crazy journey that has shaped my life? A long, strange trip that to this day resonates down through the years, pursuing me whether I court it or not!
I suppose we should start at the beginning to the summer of 1992, I use the word ‘summer’ loosely as in the UK summer in London is often a rainy affair. And precisely because of this regular inclemency, I find myself watching the Wimbledon final which has been forced to schedule an extra day’s play, running-over for the first time in years (or ever) due to the exceptionally heavy rain. A typical actor, I was killing time between auditions, waiting for my agent to call with something juicy. I became a professional actor in 1987 a couple of years after graduating college in Massachusetts, New England. I had done all the dues-paying jobs imaginable, educational theatre, pub theatre, student films, you name it – I did it.
My big break – before Sharpe – was a long running advertising campaign for Miller Lite beer which regularly placed my face in almost every living room in the UK. Great exposure for an up and coming actor, but I’d rather it had been in a respected long running series or a part in a hit movie. The money was nice though, it came in regular lumps and I was quickly lulled into the false impression that it would never end; I spent accordingly, saving very little for the (now-arrived) rainy day.
The days leading up to July 6th were as rainy as they come in British summer, both weather- and otherwise. I’d fallen behind on my income tax; high repeat fees meant high taxes. I was not only in arrears, but I’d missed an instalment of the rescheduled payments too. I was up shit creek with no money and no jobs lined up, in the coming days I was to receive a visit from the Inland Revenue demanding to know what’s going on
So, I was sitting in my kitchen, quite thrilled at the prospect of watching this highly unusual, extra day’s tennis; yes, a jobbing actor has to find thrills in even the most mundane. Little did I know that the serve volley was about to be interrupted by a life-changing phone call bringing news far more exciting than an extra day’s play at Wimbledon!
Actors are used to never hearing news either way of how you did at an audition, unless of course you’ve got the job. Even in that event there’s no time scale on how quickly you’re offered the role from the time of the original audition to acceptance.
These people are helping to fund From Crimea with Love.