English-speaking foreigners are invading American television this fall, but they’re cleverly disguised. The new wave of Brits and Aussies are impeccably trained to act and sound just like home-grown Americans.
Or credit CBS‘ long-running “Without a Trace,” which secretly boasts a trio of non-American leads masquerading as New Yorkers. Anthony LaPaglia and Poppy Montgomery are both Aussies; Marianne Jean-Baptiste is a Brit.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it raises a question: Has Hollywood run out of Americans?
Among the out-of-country stars taking on prominent American leads this fall are Damian Lewis (English) of NBC’s “Life,”Michelle Ryan (English) of NBC’s “The Bionic Woman,”Kevin McKidd (Scottish) of NBC’s “Journeyman,”Alex O'Loughlin (Australian) of CBS‘ “Moonlight,”Lloyd Owen (English) of CBS‘ “Viva Laughlin!” and Anna Friel (English) of ABC’s “Pushing Daisies.”
What prompted this immigrant invasion?
“Everyone is looking for new faces,” David Eick, executive producer of NBC’s “The Bionic Woman,” said in Los Angeles last month. “And the British performers have really nailed the American accent. They are sounding effortlessly American, so I think it’s easier for casting directors and producers to take that leap of faith.”
Networks and studios routinely use casting agents in Britain, Canada and Australia to fill American TV roles. And acting schools in those countries offer extensive dialect training in American accents — which some find easier to master than others.
Mr. McKidd is best-known in the States for his lead role in HBO’s “Rome,” for which he used a mainstream British accent. His route to an American dialect took him from the aforementioned impenetrable Scottish Highlands dialect to what he calls a “middle-class Scottish” accent to the plain old middle-brow English-English used for most of his previous work.
Miss Ryan, who plays Jamie Sommers in the “Bionic Woman” remake, says she’s been working on her American accent for “quite a long time.” She’s well-known in England for “EastEnders” and “Poirot,” but she’s unknown and thus new here. Producers refer to her casting as “just an old-style Hollywood discovery.”
Damian Lewis, who plays a San Francisco cop wrongly convicted (and later reprieved) of murder in “Life,” speculates that the unknown Brits might be desirable on American TV for another reason. Less fame means less money. An English star famous on the BBC commands considerably less money than a proven American star on NBC.
“I can only assume that we’re cheap,” Mr. Lewis said. “But seriously, there are a lot of Brits over here because you keep asking us. … This is the center of the global entertainment industry. People from all over come here because it’s where the work is.”
And the out-of-towners come ready and able to work. Especially in Britain, actors tend to start out in the theater. Many are classically trained and boast a working knowledge of singing, dancing and, of course, foreign languages — including American English.View Entire Story
By Elaine Donnelly
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