Why the Brits/Aussies will always rule US TV

David TennantUpon learning this news that David Tenant — the popular star of BBC’s Dr. Who — will be a part of the Peacock network, I thought I’d resurrect my old post I did back in June. Funny how things haven’t changed one bit since then. Brits/Aussies still very much saturate our shows. Just this Fall, another Brit Joseph Fiennes —who’s most famous role is playing the Bard himself in Shakespeare in Love — is starring in ABC’s new drama Flash Forward. So the Scottish star’s foray into American TV is hardly surprising. According to THR, he’ll have his debut as the title character in NBC’s hourlong pilot Rex Is Not Your Lawyer. It centers on Rex Alexander (Tennant), a top Chicago litigator who begins suffering panic attacks and takes up coaching clients to represent themselves in court. So I’m guessing he’d have to adopt a Chicagoan accent? Bummer, I wish these Brits – and Aussies too for that matter — could just keep their own accent. I mean, LOTS of real people living in the US retain their native accents (me included).

Anyhoo, here’s what I wrote back in June:

If you watch just enough TV (or in my case, read a lot about what’s on the telly but don’t actually watch them), it’s hard to deny that the Brits/Aussies are a mainstay in our living room. We can argue the same case with Hollywood that’s pretty much overrun by foreign actors (case in point: last year’s Oscar winners consist of one Aussie actor, a British and Spanish actress, and a British director (whose film Slumdog Millionare won Best Film). That’s just the major contenders!

Now, as in the case of TV, it’s as if we’re seeing more and more foreign actors playing Americans, which begs the question: what gives? Truthfully, I’m often astounded that upon hearing some actors speak in interviews, I suddenly realize they aren’t Americans. Then I get annoyed that the producers don’t just let them use their own adorable accent and play their own nationality on TV. For some reason, they HAVE to make them play Americans–which they often do a darn decent job on–but sheesh, what a pity! I personaly would rather listen to their native tounge any day!

Take Jamie Bamber who plays hunky Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama in Battlestar Galactica. I was flabbergasted when I first heard his very thick British accent on the behind-the-scenes stuff, as he pulled off such a natural American accent on screen! I’m sure most people feel the same way about Hugh Laurie, who plays that callous-but-intriguing doctor in House (whom I already knew was a Brit from Sense & Sensibility). Another example is Sophia Myles of the now-cancelled Moonlight, she has a super thick British accent in real life but her American accent is down-right flawless! Aussies seem to have equal knack for faking American accents, as displayed by Simon Baker in The Mentalist and my personal fave, Alex O’Loughlin in Moonlight. And the list goes on.

Bending accents aside, what these Brit/Aussie actors also have in spades is talent. Now, I’m not saying the home-grown ones are lousy performers, but there’s just something beguiling about expat actors that I can’t put my finger on. Perhaps it’s in the water somehow that they’re ‘born’ to be that good, or perhaps they just work harder to perfect their craft? Most of them admit that they feel lucky to be able to work in Hollywood. Frankly, the film industry in their home countries are nowhere near as robust as the US counterpart in producing dozens of shows a year. And there are only so many period dramas an actor can be involved in one lifetime (as BBC is known to make way more than one can count!). Whatever the case may be, I for one welcome the fact that foreign actors are here to stay.

Here’s the ten-best list of notable expats on TV (from current and past seasons) who play Americans convincingly:


1. Alex O’LoughlinMoonlight, Three Rivers, Hawaii Five-O, CBS

2. Simon BakerThe Mentalist, CBS

3. Julian McMahonNip/Tuck, Showtime

4. Toni ColetteUnited States of Tara, Showtime

5. Poppy MontgomeryWithout a Trace, CBS

6. Anthony LaPagliaWithout a Trace, CBS

7. Rachel GriffithsSix Feet Under, HBO

8. Jesse SpencerHouse, NBC

9. Christopher EganKings, NBC

10. Rose Byrne, Damages, USA

Brits (Irish, English, Scottish):

1. Hugh LaurieHouse, NBC

2. Jamie BamberBattlestar Galactica, SciFi

3. Sophia MylesMoonlight, CBS

4. Jason O’MaraLife on Mars, ABC

5. Rufus Sewell Eleventh Hour, CBS

6. Matthew RhysBrothers & Sisters, ABC

7. Johnny Lee MillerEli  Stone, ABC

8. Dominic WestThe Wire, HBO

9. Ian McShane Kings, NBC

10. Lena HeadeyThe Sarah Connor Chronicles, FOX

Honorable mention: Stephen Moyer
with his Southern drawl in True Blood

Now, who’s had you fooled so far?

One thought on “Why the Brits/Aussies will always rule US TV

  1. rockerdad

    I can relate – on the other side of it, most American actors doing Aussie or Brit accents are pretty marginal at best…

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