My Life On Screen: Sir David Jason interview

For the first time, Sir David Jason looks back at his incredible life in television in our exclusive three-part special, David Jason: My Life On Screen. And what a career it's been but, as David so rightly points out, there's more to come...

David Jason: My Life On Screen

What motivated you to make David Jason: My Life on Screen?

People have been on at me for ages to document what I've done over the course of my career. So eventually I said, "OK, I'll do it once and for all, so there is a permanent record of it."

What would you say was your big break?

Working on the comedy show Do Not Adjust Your Set alongside Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin was great fun. It was also because of that show that I went on to work with Ronnie Barker on sketch shows. Ronnie needed someone to fall over a lot. He wanted an actor, not a stuntman, and his producer Humphrey Barclay remembered he'd seen me doing that sort of silly stuff on Do Not Adjust Your Set.

Ronnie and Sir David in Open All Hours

Ronnie and Sir David in Open All Hours

What was it like working with Ronnie Barker?

Our relationship was great. I got on so well with him. He got me on all his shows. Working with Ronnie was such a good education for me. So, I have to thank Do Not Adjust Your Set. if I hadn't done that show, I wouldn't have met Ronnie.

You co-starred with Ronnie in several classic sitcoms, including Open All Hours. Why was that show such a hit?

Because of Ronnie. He just created a wonderfully funny character in Arkwright, and audiences were really drawn to him. It was also beautifully written by Roy Clarke.

Why did you recently decide to bring back Open All Hours?

Three years ago, the BBC asked me if there was anything I would like to do. I told them I'd always wondered what had happened to Granville, my character in Open All Hours. Is he now manager of Tesco or is he still working at the shop? So, I asked Roy, who told me, "He is still working at the shop."

Sir David and James Baxter in Still Open All Hours

Sir David and James Baxter in Still Open All Hours

What happened then?

I said to Roy, "If you'll write it, I'll take over the mantle." I carry no illusions about the success of the show - it's just simple comic characters being silly and funny. That's all there is to it. There are no messages. People just adore watching silly characters. I love bringing characters to the screen that viewers can really enjoy. That's what I've done all my life.

You've had so many successes during your wonderful career, which are covered in David Jason: My Life on Screen. Let's discuss a few of them, starting with The Darling Buds of May.

People loved that show. It showed the sort of idyllic family life we all lust after. We were very fortunate to have such a lovely cast. Pam Ferris was brilliant - that goes without saying. Philip Franks and Catherine Zeta Jones were so good, too. She was incredibly beautiful, and of course went off to Hollywood. I taught her all she knows, but she never took me with her!

You had another enormous success with the detective drama, A Touch of Frost. Why did that programme strike such a chord?

Because I was in it! [Laughs]. We all love watching detectives trying to work out who the murderer is. We all sit at home and say to each other, "I reckon it's him!" People also liked Frost because he broke the rules. He tended to cheat, but he always got results. People really admired that.

A Touch of Frost was initially based on the bestselling novels by RD Wingfield. Did the series deviate at all from the novels?

Yes. The writer was a bit disappointed that I had to make Frost a non-smoker. In the books, he is a chain smoker, but I couldn't do that as I'd given up!

When you look back on your terrific career, does it make you proud?

I don't tend to look back - I'm always looking forward. If I ever do stop and consider it, I think, "Golly, have I really done all that?" I can't believe it myself sometimes. I've been very lucky. But I don't want to stop now. As they say in Gardeners' World, onwards and upwards!