One of the best loved actors in British popular culture, in September 2006 Jason topped the poll to find TV's 50 Greatest Stars, as part of ITV's 50th anniversary celebrations. He was knighted in 2005 for services to drama. Jason has won four British Academy Television Awards (BAFTAs), (1988, 1991, 1997, 2003), four British Comedy Awards (1990, 1992, 1997, 2001) and six National Television Awards (1997, 2001, 2002 twice).
Jason's father, Arthur R White, was a porter at Billingsgate Fish Market, and his Welsh mother, Olwen Jones, worked as a charwoman. She gave birth to twin boys at North Middlesex Hospital in Edmonton, Middlesex, in February 1940, but Jason's twin brother died during childbirth, making him a twinless twin. It is an urban myth that he chose the name Jason as a tribute to his dead twin: David Jason himself has denied this. In 1984, during an interview on TV-am, David Jason admitted that the name David Jason was taken from his like of Jason and the Argonauts, as the stage name David White had already been taken.
Jason lived at Lodge Lane, North Finchley, and attended Northfield Secondary Modern school after failing the 11-plus in 1951. Upon leaving school, Jason wanted to follow in his brother's footsteps as an actor, but their father insisted that he first get a trade. So, for six years, he trained as an electrician, before giving up his girlfriend at the time, and becoming a jobbing actor.
Jason's elder brother is the actor Arthur White, born in 1933. The two appeared together in the crime drama A Touch of Frost, with Arthur playing police archivist Ernie Trigg; and again in 2008, in the comic fantasy, The Colour of Magic, where Arthur starred as a character called "Rerpf". He also appeared briefly with his brother in an episode of The Darling Buds of May.
Jason also has a sister, June, seven years his junior.
Jason started his television career in 1964 playing the part of Bert Bradshaw in Crossroads. In 1967, he played spoof super-hero Captain Fantastic, among other roles, in the children's comedy series Do Not Adjust Your Set (Rediffusion London/ITV) with Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Denise Coffey, and Michael Palin. Humphrey Barclay, who recruited Jason to appear in Do Not Adjust Your Set (partly to offset the rather intellectual style of Idle, Jones, and Palin), admired his sense of timing. The programme ended in 1969, and the character then appeared for a time in the Thames Television children's programme Magpie.
Jason was going to be cast in the role of Lance Corporal Jones in the Jimmy Perry and David Croft BBC comedy Dad's Army. Croft had been very impressed with the actor and knew that he had the ability to play a man much older than his real age. However, Bill Cotton over-ruled him, casting Clive Dunn. Jason appeared in the BBC comedy series Hugh and I, which starred Hugh Lloyd and Terry Scott as two friends who lived together in south London. He appeared in Randall and Hopkirk ("That's How Murder Snowballs", 1969) as Abel, a framed performer in a major London theatre.
In the 1970s, he also acted in radio comedies, including the weekly topical satire Week Ending (in which he regularly played such figures as then UK Foreign Secretary Dr David Owen) and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (as the "B Ark Captain" in the sixth episode, in an in-joking reference to his Week Ending role as Owen). Jason also appeared in The Next Programme Follows Almost Immediately and made appearances on panel games such as The Impressionists as well as his own series, The Jason Explanation. In the early 1970s, he appeared in Mostly Monkhouse.
Jason appeared in variety shows in support of stars such as Dick Emery and his performances caught the attention of Ronnie Barker. Jason was recruited to appear in Hark at Barker (LWT, 1969), starring Barker as Lord Rustless, as Dithers, the hundred-year old gardener. There was also a sequel, His Lordship Entertains (1972) for the BBC. Jason played junior employee Granville in the first programme of the comedy anthology Seven of One (1973), called Open All Hours (BBC) and starring Barker as the miserly proprietor of a corner shop.
Four series of Open All Hours were made from 1976–85. He featured in Barker's Porridge (BBC), a prison-based comedy, as the elderly Blanco in three episodes. Jason also appeared with Barker in various disguises in The Two Ronnies.
Jason starred in London Weekend Television's Lucky Feller (1975–76), written by Terence Frisby and produced by Humphrey Barclay. About two brothers in South-East London, the series was in many ways a forerunner to Only Fools And Horses, only Jason was in the more dopey 'Rodney' role with Peter Armitage playing the cleverer of the two. The brothers drove around in a comical bubble car, a precursor to the famous Trotters' van; and there was even the joke where, just as he was trying to impress the girl (Cheryl Hall), Jason casually leaned back against the bar, without his knowing that barman had just lifted it behind his back, and fell through. This situation was re-enacted in Only Fools And Horses. He played the lead role of Peter Barnes in the ATV sitcom A Sharp Intake of Breath (1977–81), alongside Alun Armstrong and Richard Wilson. In 1979, he appeared as Buttons in the pantomime Cinderella at Newcastle's Theatre Royal, starring Leah Bell and Bobby Thompson, produced by Michael Grayson and directed by John Blackmore.
In the 1980s, Jason developed an association with Cosgrove Hall, and was a voice artist for a number of children's television productions. This included voices for Danger Mouse with Terry Scott, The BFG, Count Duckula, Hugo from Victor and Hugo, and Toad from The Wind in the Willows, all produced by Cosgrove Hall for Thames Television/ITV. He provided the voice of Father Christmas in Father Christmas and the Missing Reindeer, Rola Polar in The Adventures of Dawdle the Donkey, Angelmouse, and did voices in animated films including Wombling Free and The Water Babies.
In 1981, Jason found his most popular role, Del Boy Trotter in the BBC situation comedy Only Fools and Horses, created by John Sullivan. Del-Boy is a wide-boy who makes a dubious living in Peckham, south London, trading in shoddy, stolen, and counterfeit goods. He is assisted by his brother Rodney (played by Nicholas Lyndhurst) and Grandad (played by Lennard Pearce) and, in later episodes, Uncle Albert (played by Buster Merryfield).
In 1989 Jason starred as Ted Simcock in the ITV drama series 'A Bit of a Do', aired from January to December.
In 1999, Jason starred as Captain Frank Beck in BBC's feature-length drama All the King's Men about the Sandringham regiment lost in World War I. He earned acclaim for a string of straight roles. These include Skullion in Porterhouse Blue (for Channel 4), Sidney "Pop" Larkin in the rural idyll The Darling Buds of May (Yorkshire Television/ITV) and based on the H. E. Bates novel, which featured Catherine Zeta-Jones in an early role.
In 1992, fed up with the lack of investment at the BBC, he signed a golden handcuffs deal at ITV to star as Detective Inspector Jack Frost in the long-running TV series A Touch of Frost (Yorkshire Television/ITV). In September 2006, he was voted by the general public as No. 1 in ITV's poll of TV's Greatest Stars. In December 2006, he starred in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather on Sky1 as Albert. In early 2007, he starred in Diamond Geezer (Granada Television/ITV). This series ran for 3 episodes of 90 minutes each. There was a pilot in 2005. In March 2008, he starred as Rincewind in Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic, and in the two part ITV drama Ghostboat.
On 16 September 2008, Jason announced that he would retire his role as Jack Frost after 16 years. Three new episodes of the show were shown in autumn 2008, and were followed by a two-part finale in 2010. Approached by BBC1 controller Danny Cohen in early 2011, he read three scripts and agreed to shoot a pilot for The Royal Bodyguard, which was shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival. The pilot episode aired on the BBC on Boxing Day but received a poor critical response. The series was axed after six episodes.
He is now (2017) still starring in Still Open All Hours which started in 2014. It features many original cast members (and a portrait of Ronnie Barker in Arkwright mode) and is still written by Roy Clarke, the original writer and creator of the show.
In 1993, Jason was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), and twelve years later, in the Queen's Birthday Honours List of 2005, he was knighted for services to acting and comedy. The granting of the knighthood was well received by the public.
On the day it was announced, many British newspapers used the headline "Arise Sir Del Boy" or similar, in reference to his most famous role. Upon receiving the knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on 1 December 2005, he said he was "humbled" by the "fantastic tribute".
Jason lived with his long-term girlfriend, Welsh actress Myfanwy Talog, for eighteen years and nursed her through breast cancer until she died in 1995. This experience inspired him to organise his own charity, The David Jason Trust for terminally ill children.. It also mirrored the situation in A Touch of Frost, in which the character's wife died after a long illness.
On 26 February 2001, Jason became a father for the first time at the age of 61 when his girlfriend, 41-year-old Gill Hinchcliffe, gave birth to a baby girl, born in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Aylesbury. Jason and Hinchcliffe married on 30 November 2005, St. Andrew's Day.
Jason is a patron of the Shark Trust, a United Kingdom registered charity working to advance the worldwide conservation of sharks through science, education, influence and action. He has also been Honorary Vice Patron of the Royal International Air Tattoo since 1999, and on 29 May 2014, presented a cheque on behalf of the Fairford-based RAF Charitable Trust for £125,000 to the British RAF Air Cadet Organisation, to fund flight simulators for Air Cadets.
Jason is a qualified helicopter pilot. In October 2013, Jason released his autobiography called David Jason: My Life. It was shortlisted for the 2013 Specsavers National Book Awards "Best Book of the Year".
Jason has won a total of twenty-three awards between 1986 and 2003. His hit comedy show, Only Fools and Horses won many awards. His crime drama, A Touch of Frost, has also won and been nominated numerous times. Porterhouse Blue, The Second Quest, All the King's Men and A Bit of a Do have won David Jason one award each.