I hate watching a movie or TV show knowing in advance that a so-so foreign actor will be attempting an American accent, but it’s far worse when I don’t know beforehand, and find out the hard way.
I try to watch every TV pilot each season, but I was unable to finish the pilot for ABC’s soap opera “Betrayal” because the whole show is set in motion by a romantic rooftop scene where our star-crossed Chicago lovers stand in front of a Chicago skyline and talk about how very Chicago-ish their lives are…but they’re using two of the most bizarre British-American accents I’ve ever heard.
I was aware in advance that Stuart Townsend was British, because I’d suffered through his pseudo-accent in the “Kolchak” pilot a few years ago, but the actress was new to me, and I naively assumed she was American…until I started wondering what the hell was wrong with her voice.
Of course, I don’t know why I assumed that, because I knew full well that almost every American on American TV these days is played by a Brit.
Every time I get to hear a showrunner speak (Matthew Weiner, David Milch) they complain bitterly about the intense pressure they get from networks to cast Brits in all of the lead roles, despite the fact that their accents are often atrocious. Tom Fontana told me, of a certain British TV actor he refused to hire, “The network insisted that he had a perfect New York accent, but if that’s true, there must be sixth borough in the middle of the Atlantic!”
As for why the networks cast British women, I have no idea, but as for the men, I’ve heard two theories:
- The producers feel that America can’t produce manly men any more, so rather than settle for a generation of weak-chinned Phillippes, LaBeoufs, and Ventimiglias, they have no choice but to go across the pond.
- Wealthy producers and directors love to show tough-talking Americans on screen, but they hate the thought of working with such uncouth ruffians, so they want stars who will switch off that toughness as soon as the shot ends, and goes back to dipping biscuits in their tea.
What the hell is this supposed to be: “I wuz steel connaykted to mah brutha when he duyed!” It seems to be some bizarre mix of northern England, Brando-Brooklyn, and California surfer.
Sure enough, as with the nuke problem, I had to go home and google this to make sure I wasn’t crazy. Nope, I’m not the only one. What the hell? Have Hollywood types surrounded themselves with Brits for so long that they can’t hear the difference? This kills movies and TV shows. Don’t they get that?