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by Kona Gallagher, posted Dec 15th 2008 5:13PM
hugh laurie...Nine foreign Americans

With all of the starry-eyed, out-of-work Midwesterners who litter Sunset Blvd., one would assume that our television landscape would be similarly populated with corn-fed blonds. You would, however, be wrong. In fact, there are a ton of non-Americans who have come to Hollywood to take all of our primetime show-starring jobs.

What's fun for me is watching the shows to see who does a good version of an American accent, and who needs to spend a little more time with their dialect coaches. Below are nine stars who've jumped the pond to come to the good ol' U. S. of A.

Anna Friel
(Chuck Charles, Pushing Daisies)

I had never heard of Anna Friel before Pushing Daisies, so I had no idea where she was from. It turns out our favorite undead heroine hails from Lancashire, England. Her American accent is so good that had I not seen an interview with her, there's a pretty good chance I never would have guessed that she wasn't American. Hopefully that skill will help her get more work, now that Pushing Daisies is not long for this Earth.

Jason O'Mara (Sam Tyler, Life on Mars)

With a name like O'Mara, it should be no surprise that Jason O'Mara is from Dublin, Ireland. While Life on Mars is his first starring role on an American series, he's no stranger to our tube. He's appeared on both The Closer and Grey's Anatomy. So with all that experience, one would think he would be a little bit better at holding onto his accent. It's not just that he slips up on certain words, but he has a very broad way of talking, an exaggeration of vowel sounds that you see a lot in European actors trying to do American accents. It's technically correct, but just sounds a little... off.

Yvonne Strahovski
(Sarah Walker, Chuck)

For someone whose IMDB entries just started in 2004, she gets high marks in the accent department. From Sydney Australia, Strahovski does a great version of ass-kicking spy from California. While there have been a couple of episodes in which I've noticed her accent coming out on a certain word, overall, Strahovski is completely believable as Sarah Walker.

Simon Baker
(Patrick Jane, The Mentalist)

Baker, another Aussie, is from Tasmania, Australia and counts both Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts among his best friends (because apparently everyone in Australia knows each other). Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have studied his American accent with them. While overall he's passable, he seems to slip up on something in pretty much every episode of The Mentalist. While it's not quite as distracting as the super-tight suits he seems to favor, it can take you out of the moment.

Ana Torv (Olivia Dunham, Fringe)

As Agent Olivia Dunham on Fringe, Torv isn't exactly a barrel of laughs. While her stoicism may have something to do with her lover betraying her, dying and implanting his memories in her, I believe it's because she's concentrating so hard on her accent. From Melbourne, Australia, Torv does a pretty good job overall, but has been known to slip a little bit.

Ed Westwick (Chuck Bass, Gossip Girl)

Until I saw Ed Westwick on Regis and Kelly, I had no idea he was British, but it explains so much. As Chuck Bass, Westwick, who hails from Hertfordshire, England, has a really odd way of speaking. It kind of reminds me of a demonic cat. I was never sure what the deal was; if it was an acting choice, or if there was something more to it. Now I see that it's probably part acting choice, part drawing out his words to sound American. I've never noticed him slipping, but again, the way Chuck Bass speaks is Cuh-Razy.

Kevin McKidd
(Owen Hunt, Grey's Anatomy)

If you take one look at Kevin McKidd, the dude is obviously Scottish. He just has that look about him. However, I would totally buy that he was second generation or something, because he does a great American Accent on Grey's Anatomy. Maybe it's because he's a particularly good actor, but when I watch Hunt yelling at his co-workers at Seattle Grace for putting their sex lives before their patients, the fact that he's from Elgin, Scotland doesn't come through at all.

Damian Lewis
(Charlie Crews, Life)

Damian Lewis is ridiculously hot. Not the point? I disagree. His hotness is always the point. Anyway, even though he's from London, England and has a delightfully foppish accent, I have never heard Damian Lewis slip once. Not in Band of Brothers, not in Dreamcatcher, and not as Charlie Crews on Life. He's had a ton of practice playing Americans, and it's served him perhaps too well. On the Dreamcatcher special features, he talked about how after doing an American accent for so long, he had trouble reverting back to his normal English accent.

Hugh Laurie (Gregory House, House)

As much as I adore Damian Lewis, Hugh Laurie is the king of foreign Americans. The way Greg House speaks fits the character so well, that any time you actually listen to Hugh Laurie, it just seems ... wrong. House's flat, acerbic way of speaking just goes with Laurie's face. In fact, since he's so good, I think we should make Hugh Laurie an honorary American and just have him speak like House all the time (and never shave the stubble).

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How about the guy who play Eli Stone ,Johnny Lee Miller. Im gonna miss that show. Love this site, by the way!

December 23 2008 at 2:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In addition to Alexander Skarsgard, Anna Paquin on True Blood is Australian and Stephen Moyer is British.

December 20 2008 at 3:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How about American actors who can do a good British accent?

December 20 2008 at 2:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So how do they do Hugh Laurie's stubble? Does he never shave, or do they apply fake stubble as part of his makeup?

December 16 2008 at 3:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You only mentioned actors who are born in english-speaking countries. How about the swede Alexander Skarsgård (Generation Kill, True Blood)?

December 16 2008 at 2:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David D

"I wish WE had accents" -- Betty Caruso (Amy Poehler) on this past weekend's "Bronx Beat."

December 16 2008 at 7:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree on Hugh's great American accent but I adore his British one as well. Veeery much.
But then again I'm European, so according to you guys I've got to be strange.

December 16 2008 at 7:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Perhaps what you're hearing in O'Mara's accent is not an Irish "slippage" but more that he's purposefully inserting a slight New York accent. This was mentioned when he visited Regis & Kelly.

December 16 2008 at 1:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Double votes for Matthew Rhys - Welsh hottie playing Kevin Walker on B&S.

December 16 2008 at 12:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My theory is that the American accent is the easiest foreign accent to imitate, for non-Americans.

While there are certainly nuances in the variances of the American accent - someone from Boston sounds different than someone from Texas - I believe that the generic american accent you hear on TV is much easier for someone with a British accent to adopt than the converse of an American trying to pick up a British accent. When Americans do a british accent, it sounds like they are intentionally trying to make fun of the way British people talk. The converse is not true.

I have no data to prove this hypothesis, other than posts like this. That being said, the opportunities for non-Americans to play american roles is probably larger than for Americans to play non-american roles because so many roles are American. That, and most foreign roles would not be suitable for generic americans - Vin Deisel is not going to try to play a hindu in a Bollywood film.

Though I could be wrong.

December 15 2008 at 11:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bruce's comment

When he was on Conan a week or two ago, Hugh Laurie said that it is easier for a Brit to do an American accent moderately accurately than an American to do a British accent simply due to cultural exposure.

Americans export more than death and destruction!

December 21 2008 at 2:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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