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American Accents


Mr. Magister's picture

Mr. Magister - Posted on 14 June 2009

I'm curious as to what the Brits think regarding BBC television shows that use British actors to portray American characters.

I just finished watching Jekyll w/ James Nesbit and found myself cringing at several portrayals of American's in the series.   Linda Marlowe and Paterson Joseph play two of the antagonists who represent members of some sort-of evil research company and WOW did their American accents stink.  Was it noticable for those of you across the pond?....or did they just sound like....Americans.  I'm curious!

Same I thought was true of the characterizations of Lazlo and Tallulah in 'Daleks in Manhatten' - and those actors were trying for not only American accents, but American 'Brooklyn' accents.  I know they are trying - but some British actors can pull off a good American accent while others miserably fail.  Another portrayal short of the mark was Van Statten from 'Dalek' - ouch painful.

Is it that hard to find an actual American to portray an American these days?  I guess it has something to do with being a member of the BBC actors guild or something like that. 

Now there have been a few good portrayals.  John Barrowman's Captain Jack and Nicola Bryant's 'Peri' are very much passable!  Also Hugh Laurie in 'House' comes off pretty good too.

Now how about you Brits?  Any American TV shows come to mind with characters that attempt British accents and come out sounding like characters from a Monty Python sketch?  What's all this then - Say no more! Say no more!

 

Tom Dickinson's picture

I'm also an American, and while I agree with you in general, I disagree about Tallulah. I thought her accent was right for the character: It was broadly stereotypical and caricature-like, which I think worked for her. Something more subtle would have been inappropriate.

carriertone's picture

Actually, Henry Van Statten was portrayed by New Orleans born Corey Johnson, and Lazlo was played by Ryan Carnes who was born in Pittsfield, Illinois. Also, Linda Marlowe is Australian. If there was something wrong with their accents, it's not because they're Brits. Also, John Barrowman is American, and Peri's accent was horrible.

I just wanted to clear things up a bit.

 

- Carl

"I collect stars, but I keep them in the sky because I just don't have the space at home." - Warren Ellis

Mr. Magister's picture

I thought John Barrowman was Scottish - I saw an interview w/ he and his parents and they DEFINITELY were Scottish.  In fact, he said in the interview when he visits home he speaks in his 'normal' voice - which is a somewhat thick Scottish brogue.

Mr. Magister

carriertone's picture

John Barrowman was born in Scotland, but has lived in the US since 1976, when he's not in the UK at least. He's technically a Scottish-American then?  Laughing

"I collect stars, but I keep them in the sky because I just don't have the space at home." - Warren Ellis

Louis Trapani's picture

Although not a British series, the British actor Jamie Bamber played Captain Lee "Apollo" Adama in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. If I did not hear his natural speaking voice myself, I would had said he was an American actor if I didn't know otherwise.

carriertone's picture

What about James Marsters? I thought he was from England until I heard him in interviews. His accent is impeccable though. Maybe that's why he rarely plays American roles. And Hugh Laurie is a master of accents. He can switch back and forth between so many, it's crazy.

"I collect stars, but I keep them in the sky because I just don't have the space at home." - Warren Ellis

daveac's picture

'What about James Marsters? I thought he was from England until I heard him in interviews. His accent is impeccable though. Maybe that's why he rarely plays American roles. And Hugh Laurie is a master of accents. He can switch back and forth between so many, it's crazy.'

Totally agree

 

PS -Carl you need to sort out your SIG link to twitter

Cheers, daveac

Cyberscotsman's picture

It's funny because we Brits often laugh at the number of American actors who's fail to pull off our accents. Dick Van Dyke in Marry Poppins is quite possibly the worst ever. Mind you there are exceptions, Brad Bit's Irish twang in Scratch is good, and Mel Gibson does a passable Scot in Braveheart (but then he should considering he's got roots in Scotland). As for the other way round surely one of the worst American accents was Captain Hopper in "Tomb of the Cybermen". Cory Johnson in "Dalek" is I'm sure American as he talks so in the "Confidential" episode.

"You're the one who's foreign I'm Scottish" (Jamie McCrimmon "Evil of the Daleks")

Mr. Magister's picture

How could I forget him!  I just watched that episode last month.  It seems to me that the key ingredient in putting on an American accent is to talk loudly, be abrupt and direct, wave a gun around indescriminantly and to if possible call people 'guys' or 'fellers'

haha. 

If it's any consolation - we too are ashamed of Dick Van Dyke's turn as a chimney sweep.  Don't forget about Keanu Reeves in Bram Stokers Dracula.

 

Mr. Magister

Danny aka CyberColin's picture

The best American actor to do a 'British' accent* is Alexis Denisof (who's in Angel I believe?).  Although he worked in the UK for a few years his RP accent in the Sharpe episodes he was in was utterly superb.  I couldn't believe it when I found out out he was American!

Although, John Barrowman is definitaley Scottish.  If you read up on it, he actually 'put on' his accent when he was at school, because he got builled for having a Scottish accent.  I personally felt offended by Braveheart, so i'll gloss over that and say that a Frenchman playing a Scot and a Scot playing an Egyptian in Highlander was probably one of the worst piece of castings ever.  I don't care how good Lambert was in the first film!

I haven't seen House but I reckon Damian Lewis can do a better accent than Hugh Laurie!  (no offence to Hugh fans)

But I think once we find out where a actor is from, once he/she does another accent we're always going to be picking up on every word and calling it 'terrible' if they get anything wrong.  Hence the believability goes from the character and eventually the show itself, which spoils your enjoyment.

* There is no such thing as a 'British accent'!

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Cyberscotsman's picture

I've just thought of even worse American accents in Who than Captain Hopper, what about The Space Pirates? Even more wooden than Thunderbirds, and I don't mean the actual puppets! Nicola Bryant's accent did slip a couple of times, right at the start of Caves she pronounces "glass" in her native posh English. Maybe the Doctor was trying to give her elocution lessons...

"You're the one who's foreign I'm Scottish" (Jamie McCrimmon "Evil of the Daleks")

ITs more easy than British.

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