18 April 2011
By Michael Holland
Most will know Neil Jackson as Harry Spargo, the driver in the last batch of Upstairs Downstairs programmes. Younger viewers will recognise him as Sasha Belov, the coach in E4’s 'Make It or Break It', that is showing now. Some of you will even know Neil as their neighbour in Bermondsey, often seen taking in the views as he walks along the river.
On the way up the treacherous ladder of fame he did a series of Dream Team, one of Sugar Rush, a few CSIs and a Heartbeat, but it was the part in Alexander with Colin Farrell that became his lucky break. He tells the story: ‘I went over for the LA premiere of the movie. Colin Farrell actually bought my ticket and paid for me to stay for two nights in a hotel, as the producers wouldn't foot the bill. From there I got my American agent.
At one point they wanted me to play the lead part in Prison Break, but the visa couldn't be secured in time for filming, but that garnered interest in me and from there I booked work. I very much owe my US success to Colin, as I would have never gone over there otherwise.’
But it was no cakewalk getting into these top shows. Jackson first studied sport, which led to becoming Cherie Blair’s personal trainer, a client for whom he has great respect. He recalled a time when he left her to balance on an inflatable ball: ‘She collapsed onto the mats with a loud smack. She got up smiling, waved to her security guards, gave it another go and succeeded second time around. Amazing lady.’
Whilst training those who don’t know how to do it themselves, Neil wrote a musical, which came third in a national competition.
This attracted the attention of producer Michael Armstrong, who was so impressed he offered him a scholarship at his acting school in return for writing for his production company.
Jackson was also an amateur boxer and uses those disciplines still: ‘I approach acting like I did boxing and acting is very much an individual sport; you're only as good as the work you put in before the audition, and once you're in the audition it's up to you and you alone to convince the producers and win the role. I'm very much still a fighter - just now it's towards my career.’
And that career is definitely on the rise. More work in Los Angeles will keep him away for the next few months, but he is looking forward to returning to film the next series of Upstairs Downstairs in September. He says: ‘It's great to have done a show that has such an important place in the hearts of the British. The original Upstairs Downstairs was one of the most celebrated achievements of UK television and to be a part of that legacy is amazing.’
He also wants to get home after so long in California: ‘It's quite a culture shock going from Bermondsey to Los Angeles. LA, like most American cities and towns, is built on the grid system - perfectly structured blocks upon blocks. I miss walking by the docks and under the passageways and through the parks in Bermondsey, never needing to pass or even see a road.’
So, by autumn we will see our new local star back amongst us again: ‘I love Bermondsey,’ he declares. ‘I live close to the Thames and take the boats into town or the bus down to Greenwich or even walk to Tower Bridge. It's my favourite part of London.’
No comments have been posted.
RAILTON ROAD SE24,
Leasehold, For Sale
TEA TRADE WHARF SE1, £1,295,000 , For Sale
TOWER BRIDGE WHARF E1W, £550 , per week, For Sale
PROVIDENCE SQUARE SE1, £1,600,000 , For Sale