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The accent grave
Posted: 29 March 2013 03:45 AM   [ Ignore ]
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The accent grave: Why don’t Americans play Americans on TV anymore?
http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-accent-grave-why-dont-americans-play-americans,95717/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_campaign=standard-post:headline:default

Article by Noel Murray of the AV Club, bemoaning the abundance of non-Americans playing Americans on TV.

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Posted: 29 March 2013 06:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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In the new CBS drama Golden Boy, Theo James plays an ambitious New York beat cop named Walter William Clark Jr., who parlays one heroic act into a job as a homicide detective, and later becomes the youngest police commissioner in the city’s history.

I agree with this. My first reaction to this TV show was ‘can’t they get an American who has a nondescript accent and over-acts in an execrable plot?’

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Posted: 29 March 2013 11:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It’s a pretty dreadful series too, at least judging from the first episode. The premiss is simply ludicrous, the guy barely looks old enough to be a cadet. And he’s Police Commissioner? Yeah, right.

As for non-Americans playing American parts, well, if the accent is good then I’m fine with it, although of course my ear isn’t as finely-tuned as a native’s. I didn’t find that of Theo James anywhere near the level of Hugh Laurie’s, Dominic West’s or Anthony LaPaglia’s.

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Posted: 29 March 2013 11:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It’s all revenge for Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins

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Posted: 29 March 2013 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I’ve been noticing the trend too, and wondering if it’s simple economics, i.e., good foreign actors are willing to work for less.  Or perhaps there is such a high demand for good actors, with every channel producing dramas now, that we have to import them.

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Posted: 29 March 2013 04:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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On the other hand, we just got through watching Possession in which half the major English characters, including the main English character, were played by Americans.

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Posted: 30 March 2013 01:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I don’t like the trend, either, and it’s always distracting because I’m listening out for minor slips.  Some apparently get it spot on - I think Hugh Laurie has been mentioned before, though I’m not in a position to judge him - and Meryl Streep wasn’t bad, but I think it’s false economy.  Each to his own.

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Posted: 30 March 2013 04:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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We’ve discussed the general topic before.

I’m wondering how much this phenomenon is due to the idiosyncrasies of casting directors. Hollywood is, somewhat surprisingly, a small industry at its heart, where a few people can have a widespread influence. A couple of successful casting directors develop some contacts with the British film and stage industry, and voila, British actors are “all over” American film and television. (Actually, it’s still just a handful.)

It’s not economics. Major parts are cast that way. If the person is “right,” they get the part. And bringing someone across the pond, arranging for a work visa, etc. is expensive and time consuming. They wouldn’t hire a foreign actor unless they were really wanted for the part.

And I’d forgotten about Damian Lewis. I’ve only seen him play Americans. If I hadn’t read his bio, I would never have guessed he was British. I just finished watching “Life” on Netflix. It’s a lousy series, but Lewis is such a good actor that it was worth it.

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Posted: 30 March 2013 04:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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To be honest, I think the author is blowing the issue out of proportion. It’s an international industry. There are It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a few percent of the people playing Americans on TV are not from North America.

He does mention the topic of Canadians but I don’t think that even counts anymore. :-)

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Posted: 30 March 2013 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The prevalence of Canadians on US television is, to a significant degree, due to the fact that many US TV shows are filmed in Vancouver, and they hire non-lead actors locally.  You tend to see the same actors on shows filmed in British Columbia. For example, I think nearly all the actors, except the handful of leads, who were in the reboot of Battlestar Galactica also appeared in the series Smallville.

Or at least this was the case until the exchange rate reached rough parity. Until recently, it was a lot cheaper to film in Canada than in the US. Now that the exchange rate is roughly 1:1, I wonder how long productions will trek north from Hollywood for filming.

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Posted: 30 March 2013 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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To be honest, I think the author is blowing the issue out of proportion. It’s an international industry.

Yes indeed, and I suspect it always has been. Consider Boris Karloff. Born in England, of part English and part Indian descent, he acted in many American movies, where he played a variety of ethnic roles: English, Irish-American (in Scarface), Chinese (The Mask of Fu Manchu), Greek (Isle of the Dead), Indian, Spanish, Grinchian (voice only). Nobody to my knowledge complained of his using a phony accent in any of these roles (yes, I know it’s not the same thing. Let me have my fun)

Of course, there are limits. I think these were uniquely overstepped in an American movie I saw long ago, about some people adrift in a lifeboat after being torpedoed in WW2. One of the characters, a sailor (portrayed, I guess, by an American actor), claimed, in a faux Cockney accent, to be a native of Liverpool!  (I’ve forgotten everything else about the movie, including the name. Aldi might be able to identify it).

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Posted: 30 March 2013 11:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I wonder if that’s Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. I’m overdue for another watch so I’ll check back later. Another candidate is Abandon Ship (US title Seven Waves Away) 1957, which is actually a British movie but has several American actors, one of whom could be the offender.

Ha! Watching Lifeboat now and Hume Cronyn’s accent is veering wildly to all points of the compass, now his native Canadian, now American, now Cockney, now vaguely North of England, now something rich and strange spoken only on a Hollywood lot. His character is supposed to be British, the good Lord knows what Hitch was thinking by doing this. Hume was a wonderful actor, his performance in Brute Force as the chief prison guard was absolutely chilling. He was a close friend of Hitch’s, a frequent actor in his movies and a writer too. (He adapted the 1929 play Rope for Hitchcock). This was not his finest moment!

[ Edited: 30 March 2013 01:32 PM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 30 March 2013 08:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I’ll have to check out Lifeboat, then.

Mayhaps it will earn a place on my list of terrible, terrible accents in film.

1/ Dick van Dyke’s “cockney” accent in Mary Poppins

2/ James Coburn’s “Australian” accent in The Great Escape

3/ Laurence Olivier’s “German” accent in Marathon Man

4/ Laurence Olivier’s “Quebecois” accent in 49th parallel

5/ Laurence Olivier’s “Moorish-Venetian” accent in Othello

6/ Orson Welles’s “?????????” accent in Ferry To Hong Kong

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Posted: 31 March 2013 04:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Laurence Olivier is definitely unrivaled in this field. I’d add to the roster his accent in The Boys From Brazil (whatever it’s meant to be) and his ‘Sudanese Arab’ accent in Khartoum.

BTW OP, my compliments on the topic title. Nice one!

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Posted: 31 March 2013 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Oh, the topic title is taken from the article: not my creation.

BTW, I was not very happy with the secondary title, “Why don’t Americans play Americans on TV anymore? “. Kind of implies the article is going to be about Americans playing other nationalities, not other nationalities playing Americans…

[ Edited: 31 March 2013 02:56 PM by OP Tipping ]
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Posted: 01 April 2013 05:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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No, it doesn’t imply that, that’s just the way you happened to interpret it.  It’s completely neutral between the two readings (though of course they could easily be distinguished in speech).

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