Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The British are coming! The British are coming!

Today's column tackles the biggest recurring question of this tour: why are there so many British (and Aussie) actors playing Americans as the stars of new shows?

Somebody wake Lou Dobbs and tell him he has a new kind of immigration crisis to rail against. A new group of foreigners is streaming into this country, and these people are stealing our best jobs, replacing our doctors, our cops, our reporters, even our bionic women.

Or maybe they're just stealing acting jobs. But for cultural pride, isn't that just as important?

There's going to be a British invasion on TV this season, with about a dozen actors from Great Britain or its former territories playing Americans in new network primetime series.

To read the full thing, click here.


Alan Sepinwall said...

Proving once again that I've been at press tour too long, I identified the star of "Moonlight" as Bon Scott, which is sad and funny in, like, three ways.

There's someone on the stage right now who I think is Steve McPherson but who could very well be Vanessa Williams. I just don't know anymore.

Anonymous said...

Well, if I recall the trailer correctly, "Moonlight" replaced an American (Shannon Lucio?) with a Brit (Sophia Myles), but it also replaced a Croatian (Rade Serbedzija -- trust me, you know this man's face) with an American (Jason Dohring). So it's not like all the business just goes one way.

I was also going to mention something about the stunt casting of Bon Scott, but Alan beat me to the punch.


olucy said...

Saffron Burrows is joining the Boston Legal (ABC) cast, but I don't know if they're going to bother to try to disguise her as an American

Christy said...

Doesn't "Without a Trace" with its Aussie and Brit stars predate "House" even?

Anonymous said...

Stinger and McNulty!

One of the best gags ever was in Season 2 of The Wire when McNulty was pretending to and English business man to infiltrate the brothel. I mean, a guy with a horrible American accent doing an American with a horrible British accent....hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Good article, Alan, but there are even more than you mentioned:

ABC: Johnny Lee Miller on Eli Stone

CBS: Polly Walker on Cane; Jack Davenport on Swingtown; Hugh Jackman recurring on Viva Laughlin; Sophia Myles on Moonlight

Fox: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Zuleikha Robinson on New Amsterdam; Owain Yeoman on Sarah Connor Chronicles

And yet Eric Balfour is unemployed next season. A travesty!!

Anonymous said...

While I can't remember the source, I read an article last month that was more blunt about the British invasion. (I think it might've been in one of the British papers, strangely enough.)

An unnamed TV producer said that Brits are popular now because they're cheaper. British actors are often willing to sign contracts for a fraction of what an American actor might demand to headline a TV series, because the going rates over in the UK are significantly lower than the (minimum) $30-50K per episode that an American might have come to expect. Obviously, talent and a willingness to commit to the episodic grind are still quite important, but the scuttlebutt is that money is one of the key factors here.

Anonymous said...

I know this piece was about network series, but I also thought Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver were pretty good in The Riches. And I have to say that Idris Elba as Stringer Bell was the most convincing Brit playing a Yank (I saw a trailer for the movie Daddy's Little Girls, and he uses the exact same voice). But if you watch the Wire's first season you can definitely hear a lot of cockney in Dominic West's generic East Coast accent.

Anonymous said...

Can vampires choke on their own vomit? I thought they didn't need to breathe.

Anonymous said...

Your Bon Scott mistake made me laugh out loud. It would have been AMAZING stunt casting on a show about vampires, though!

Also, now's as good of a time as any for me to note that every time I get that "Who Are You?" survey on, I've always told them I'm a man, born in 1953 or 1985, and I make up a zip code at random. It's probably not as helpful as they'd hoped.

Anonymous said...

"But if you watch the Wire's first season you can definitely hear a lot of cockney in Dominic West's generic East Coast accent."

That isn't cockney twinge, it is a Yorkshire one. A cockney accent is effectively an East London one, and is nothing like Dominic West speaks in real life. The normal English accent you hear, in say Richard Curtis films or the Office, is considered Estuary English.

Other Brits included Richard Ayode from NBC's the IT Crowd. Plus, as was said of the principle cast in Without A Trace, two are Aussies and another is English.

Nicole said...

The story north of the border is that this British invasion in American tv has come at the expense of Canadian actors. But unless they go around brandishing "aboot", you'll have a hard time telling the difference.

I think it's more coincidence than anything, but I do think that the training in the UK is a bit more to be an actor and less of a star.

Unknown said...

Anna Friel in Pushing Daisies is British also.

Anonymous said...

And don't forget the two Brits in BSG - James Callis (who granted isn't using an American accent) and Jamie Bamber (who is).

Speaking of Jamie - his sister Anastasia Griffith is in the new show Damages and Rosie Byrne from that show is an Aussie so there's a couple more for the list

Anonymous said...

And don't forget ABC's "Brothers and Sisters", which has Matthew Rhys from Wales and Rachel Griffiths from Australia, both with (really good) fake American accents.