Saturday, June 11, 2011

5 Great (Fake) American Accents

1. Hugh Laurie - House - I must admit that when I first saw House, I had no idea who Hugh Laurie was.  However, I was surprised to find out that not only is this interesting new actor not American, but he is the most British actor who ever Britished.  Laurie has been a cult-favorite comedic actor in the U.K. since the mid-80s, working as a comedy duo with Stephen Fry in shows such as Jeeves and Wooster and performing opposite Rowan Atkinson in the Blackadder series.  Story goes, House creator David Shore also had no idea that Laurie was British when he saw his audition tape, remarking to his producer, "See this is what I want: an American guy."

House (2011)

A Bit of Fry and Laurie (1987)

2. Joel Kinnaman - The Killing - I am enjoying the inaugural season of AMC's The Killing and Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman is the main reason (along with Mireille Enos) why.  His character Stephen Holder, the new guy in the Seattle homicide division, could have been another clichéd fresh-faced rookie paired with the veteran with one foot out the door.  However, Kinnaman puts a new spin on the role by adopting a perfect lower-class-cool American drawl that makes him sound like he grew up ditching class to hang out on the the mean streets.  Pair that with perpetually greasy hair and some personal demons that belie a heart of gold and you have the most interesting character on TV right now.  (For some reason, in the second clip below, Kinnaman conducts the interview in his fake American accent)

The Killing promo (2011) Interview (2010)

3. Rachel Griffiths - Six Feet Under - This is a familiar theme of this post, but Rachel Griffiths was unknown to me before watching Six Feet Under, and it shocked me when I learned that she was not American.  The Australian Griffith's performance as the fiercely intelligent Brenda was excellent (the acting was always the main reason to watch the show, especially during the later seasons when things turned a little too dreary) and it never ceases to amaze me how anyone can act so convincingly while speaking in an accent not their own.

Six Feet Under (2002)

Muriel's Wedding (1994)

4. Idris Elba - The Wire - It is said that it is easier for foreign actors to mimic American dialects such as a Southern accent because it can better mask tell-tale flaws.  I don't know if this helped Idris Elba nail the sophisticated, but identifiably inner-city, East Coast African American vernacular of drug dealer Stringer Bell in The Wire, but his voice was so realistic that the actor claims to routinely floor American fans who stop him on the street by greeting them with a cheerful "All right, mate?"

The Wire (2004) Interview (2010)

5. Kate Winslet - Little Children - I meant to pull actors from both film and TV for this list, but when I started doing a little research, I had trouble finding movie accents that were on par with the examples listed above.  The ones that I remembered being great, such as Kenneth Branagh in Dead Again and Minnie Driver in Grosse Point Blank, turned out to be anything but.  One that stood out is the ever-reliable Kate Winslet in the under-appreciated Little Children.  She has no dialect-crutch and speaks in seamless "standard American" Englsh, which is befitting of a film that explores the dark side of American suburbia.

Little Children (2006)

Extras (2005)


  1. It is possible that Southern accents are easier for non-Americans (I'm not quite sure), but even if that is true I would still have to consider Colin Farrell in "Crazy Heart" to be in the top 5. It has been years since I watched it, but I vaguely remember at the time he also did a nice job in "Minority Report" for a more neutral American accent.

  2. Check out the fake American accents of Emily Mortimer in "Lars and the Real Girl" and Carey Mulligan in "Drive". Both of them are from England and I think they do a good job of sounding like they're from the US.

  3. James McAvoy in "The Conspirator." He's got a very heavy Scottish accent IRL and he manages to bring emotion and heart into the courtroom scenes in a perfect American accent. Brilliant!

  4. Two of Elba's alum from The Wire also do damn fine jobs putting on their rough-as-guts Baltimore accents - Dominic West as Jimmy McNulty (British) and Aiden Gillen as Tommy Carcetti (Irish)

  5. Damien Lewis (Homeland, Band of Brothers, Life) is one of the most convincing American accents from a Brit that I've ever heard. He's up there with Hugh Laurie. I really thought he was American.

    Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), an Aussie, has got American hillbilly down perfect,.

  6. Of course Kinnamann is the best in this category. Do you know how weird language Swedish is?