Press Office

Saturday 12 Jul 2014

Press Packs

Upstairs Downstairs – Neil Jackson plays Harry Spargo

How would you describe your character to viewers?

Harry Spargo has a cheeky outlook on life. He's very meticulous with his job, and takes his work very seriously. He likes everything to have its place and is very fastidious. But with his outlook on everything else he kind of sections himself off from the house. He spends a lot of time in his own company and he has an almost sardonic view of the way everybody else operates their business – he has a wry sense of humour. I think he sees his role as driver as a far more important job than the cooking and the butlering – almost that he's above the rest of the servants.

What do you think viewers will make of him?

He's incredibly sympathetic. He does get involved with the Fascist movement, but that involvement comes from a place of innocence. He's very much about working class rights of the working class man – and that was Mosley's original message – trying to unite the working class man under a common banner. Harry wants to empower himself – not fully realising the greater message and the greater connotations of the Fascist movement and the way it would end.

What do you think it is about Upstairs Downstairs that has stood the test of time?

I think people are always going to be fascinated about the haves and have nots – about the divide between the servants and the rich families upstairs. We're not talking about current issues, although there are reflections of current issues in the series.

How was it working with such a fantastic cast?

It's incredible. When you hear the voices of the other cast at the read-through it adds so much more to it. I found myself sometimes being caught up in watching the way that Adrian or Anne Reid or Eileen would deliver a line. It's hypnotic, watching such wonderful craftspeople at work.

The events of 1936 have a huge impact on your character. Did you do much research into the period?

The moment I was given the part I blitzed YouTube and looked up footage of Mosley rallies, to try and get as much information as I could. The beauty of what Heidi has done with the scripts is that they are so incredibly rich – there's so much already in there that is provided by the research that she's done.

How did you find filming on the sets of 165 Eaton Place?

The attention to detail on this show is mind-boggling. The production design, as well as costume and make-up, have done such an amazing job. The enormous level of attention to detail is so subtle that it all makes this a rich show. The audience will be thrown into the rich, lavish 1930s home and it will draw people in.

Are there any moments in the series that stand out for you?

One of the more memorable scenes is when we filmed the Cable Street riots – with huge crowds dressed in black shirts and the whole area decked out like a scene from 1936. As part of the scene, Mosley comes past in his car and they all do the fascist salute. Suddenly this period came to life for me. I looked around and everything was as if I'd just stepped in through a 1936 window. It was such an incredible period.

Do you think it will appeal to a younger TV viewing audience?

I think so. You've got a cast who have a large younger following. I think that the story and the characters are rich and that the story will help people stay. It's the sort of good drama and TV that the BBC has become renowned for. It's the type of show that the whole family can sit down to watch and it raises as many questions as it does answers.

You spent quite a chunk of your time in Cardiff when you were studying. How has it been to come back to south Wales?

I haven't been here for about 11 years so it's been incredible to be back. A lot has changed. I used to work as a doorman in the city centre in various clubs. It's fun to come back and go on a trip down memory lane. There's a lot of history here for me. It all very much began here so it's almost as if it's gone full circle for me to come back to Cardiff.

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