quick question. is it just me noticing something that always goes on or is there really a bit of a british invasion on american screens?
so, we all know about hugh laurie, both sides of the pond. english actor impresses all with his grasp of american english as house. we’re all on the same page with this, right? old news. see, the thing is that i don’t have a tv, and haven’t had one for a few years now. this means that i see some things from the US that haven’t been on tv in the uk and i don’t see any of the magazine style tv shows that fill up the schedules, so i don’t know what ‘we’ know about. this puts me rather on the back foot as a tv reviewer, but bear with me.
hugh laurie talks slang with ellen
what i want to talk about is what seems to me to be a thing. you might be able to tell me whether it is a thing or not. it’s just something that seems to be happening more and more. maybe i am wrong, but is there some sort of english invasion on the screens of the US?
with laurie/house it could be seen as a one off. and then there was ian mcshane as al swearengen in deadwood. he plays a character originally from england and has a rather cut and shut accent which works. for UK viewers it was less that he was in an american show that was the big deal and much, much more that someone who had played a long running middle of the road show here – lovejoy – could actually act. coincidentally, deadwood was also the beginning of my addiction to the style of watching enabled by the box set. i watched all of season one with my brother over a few days at christmas one year. we ate, we took a sofa each, and we watched deadwood. a perfect festive season.
so, this brings me to the wire. and a definite shift – two english actors, both playing americans. HOWEVER – i can’t remember if i knew idris elba was a hackney boy before watching, but i certainly had no idea who dominic west was.
mcnulty (west) and stringer bell (elba)
imagine my shock when i saw him in the hour.
dominic west in the hour.
it was quite good, i wasn’t crazy about it. but it was very strange seeing mcnulty toff up. if you like mad men then you might like this, too.
and if you haven’t heard idris elba sporting his real accent, i can verify that his accent in luther is authentic. i loved luther. very watchable. if you like crime drama it’s a treat.
idris elba – luther
so, this was when i started thinking that there was something going on with our actorly exports – two major parts in the wire being played IN AMERICAN by brits? interesting.
then something else happened – homeland came onto UK tv. ANOTHER two actors, both playing americans. being me, i didn’t recognize damian lewis as being from here, and in any case he has played american before (band of brothers for example) and is one of those english actors who speaks in RP (recieved pronunciaton) or, as it is now more commonly recognized ‘BBC english’, which makes ‘doing accents’ rather unsurprising since those that have it tend to use it as a baseline from which to deviate.
damian lewis talks about homeland
david harewood from homeland – as himself. not the strongest brummie accent, but it’s there.
so then i started thinking – what about women in all this? alex kingston comes immediately to mind. in ER she keeps her english accent. she is also pretty high profile here, having been a major character in dr who.
it’s not as if british actors are new in town, after all, charlie chaplin and stan laurel were brits. but what i am wondering is, is being an actress really that far behind being an actor? are women uncle tomming it like james mason who played his englishness as either ‘englishman as villain’ or ‘english accent as german nazi’? what do you think? i mean, i am very much NOT an expert. i barely know who actors are. i wouldn’t even be able to name these actors if it weren’t for wikipedia. so maybe i have it all wrong?
ETA thanks to kirsty for pointing me to this post where people seem to be mainly complaining that british actresses are playing american parts. you can’t please ’em all.