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Grads' Club

Complex Visas = Bad Accents

If you saw the film "The House Bunny" last year, you will know what I mean when I say simply "Bad British Accent".  Or should this be, "The Worst Attempt at a British Accent Ever".  Among my list of pet hates is employing American actors to take on a British film role when there are plenty of British actors who are not only capable, but also in this instance, better actors.  Of course, for some very talented actors, I make an exception to this rule.  (This is the part where I temporarily cease blogging to bow down to the likes of Renée Zellweger.)

The same applies when the roles are reversed.  Unless your American accent is utterly superb (again, a momentary pause to bow down to Hugh Laurie), then American actors should be employed to take on American roles.  Unfortunately, when those roles are in this country, it seems that Britain makes this very difficult.  Just take a look at the information on British visas, and then compare this with the more straight-forward information on gaining an American visa.  Apparently this country intends to train American citizens at its drama schools, but then make it as difficult as possible for them to understand how to go about staying in the country.  Or perhaps the government relies heavily on the international departments at our educational institutions, but nobody has yet picked up on the fact that few of those seem to understand the rules either.
The various American actors I came to know during training have nearly all been forced to return to America due to visa issues, many of which could have been avoided if the rules had been made clearer and simpler. Those that remain appear to be engaged in a confusing battle whilst stubbornly remaining in this country.

The British theatre training is largely considered to be the best - so let's make it easier for actors from other countries to work here and help to diversify the work we produce to as high a standard as possible.


Isn't the point of acting to inhabit another character, and one of its joys seeing others transform? With this in mind I think it logical that US actors will assume Brit accents (however well/badly) and vice versa.

And if British theatrical training is as good as you say, then at least the majority of British grads can do an American accent justice (or at least have the training and opportunity to give it their best shot).

Damien Lewis in Life is another Brit donning a US accent with aplomb, also Stephen Moyer the lead in True Blood. Dougray Scott's in Desp Housewives was a bit dire, but I'd rather have a Brit actor don a US accent to play a more leading role than be jettisoned as the stereotypical British villain with an English accent.

To the commenter- I have to say that you do have a point as far as high profile tv and movie projects-- they are the only place where i have consistently seen british actors able to do completely believable british accents- good on them! Know why? Because they have onset coaches correcting and honing their every move.
Unfortunately, this hasn't translated to the accents on display in productions of various American plays I've seen during my past year and a half here. These included sincerely laughable attempts at regional American accents, as well as almost passable but noticeably flawed ones by high profile actors at very respected producing houses. In the second instance, I've often been quipped to that "well people in the UK wouldn't know the difference, so it doesn't matter." I find this hard to believe since so many authentic American television shows are broadcast everyday into people's homes. If someone at a large producing house in a high profile show were to do say a noticeably dodgy Yorkshire or Scottish accent, reviewers and the public would tear them to shreds. Actually, they just wouldn't be hired for the role unless they were natives OR extremely adept to begin with. Why should it be different for American roles?
Obviously, the answer as April has said is the complex Visa regulations, which are indeed CONFUSING to say the least, i still don't understand them, and will probably leave the country soon. I love the kind of work performed in this country, and especially enjoy the diverse yet specific approach to actor training. In comparison to my first degree at an American university, I have improved as a performer exponentially faster and with greater understanding of my own personal process. I agree, it's not the school's fault, rather, it's not the school's responsibility! I think the commenter above is in error in assuming "if British theatrical training is as good as you say, then at least the majority of British grads can do an American accent justice". Again, to my experience, unless they already had a good ear for speech and melody, they can't. Yes they are given the tools and "opportunity to give it their best shot", but in my opinion that shouldn't be good enough when it comes to the professional job market-- it wouldn't be accepted for UK accents. However, i don't think this is the fault of the schools. As far as voice and dialect tutors go, at best they can give you very specific pointers and outlines of the technicalities of an accent, but just as nobody can perfect in the moment acting for you, they cannot teach you the tune, force you to be diligent and work painstakingly until it is perfected, or give you the gift of a talent for picking up different accents. Some people do better than others, and even tutors, at least at my school, had only 3 or 4 accents that they themselves could do spot on at a moment's notice. The end product of the american accent training at my current drama school is usually either a caricatured very nasal "General American" (about as common in the real US of A as Wildean RP) or a slightly lethargic and stereotypical "General Southern American" (which I think the user may feel is "Tennessee Williams-esque" but is really just mildly offensive). Of course in every year group, there are 3-4 notable exceptions who have devoted the time to get it right, or are just talented at it. Which is FINE- drama schools are there to give you the tools to work, support and constructively criticize your efforts, and encourage you to strive for perfection in your own personal process. Drama school is where you can have a go at failing, is often said. I just wish that AFTER graduation this attitude- that it's okay to fail if you've given it a "decent" go- wasn't treated as achieving success- especially where an American accent is concerned! I'd certainly have more auditions or at least possibilities (at present border agency rules will only be bent for celebrities it seems). I'd gladly compete with fellow States AND UK born actors with GOOD American accents, and gladly keep swimming through the mountains of paperwork required to stay on Albion shores for awhile longer. But, "c'est la vie". (delivered in my worst French accent)

haha oops just read that back to myself-- please read "the only place where i have consistently seen british actors able to do completely believable british accents" as "the only place where i have consistently seen british actors able to do completely believable AMERICAN accents"... must have gotten a little overhasty with my passionate reply...

The information on USA Visa's may be more simple, but have you ever tried to get one? I think that Brits that train in America have exactly the same problem - being able to actually stay and work there is virtually impossible. Sure, you can get a student Visa for whilst you are studying, but when you finish that's it - back to the UK. If you have won an Olivier, or something else prestigious like that it is another matter, but for your average actor starting out I think it is equally hard for Brits to stay in America after training as it is for Americans to stay here.

Hi there :)

I was wondering if you'd heard about this news on actors' accents? ....

"How many times have you had a good film or soap ruined by some actor’s appalling rendition of your accent? Well, now you can do something about it. Simply get onto this site and show them how it should be done - and there’s the added bonus of being paid to set them right."

" provides an opportunity for people to register as “Readers” - and to be paid, to read specific lines in their native accent. Actors receive mp3 files with their own lines read in the authentic accent they need to use. Membership is free for both Actors and Readers."

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