It’s always impressive when an actor masters a foreign accent for a film role, but it’s even more astounding when they do it for years in a recurring TV character role. Most of these actors are so good at faking it that fans often don’t know they’re watching an Aussie or a Brit until they catch the star being interviewed on “Late Night with David Letterman.” While I find it almost unforgivable to make someone drop a sexy accent, here’s the skinny on a few of our faves who have done just that.
Using a term like “mentalist” might be enough to tip off more savvy viewers that something slightly less than straight-up American is happening on this show. Simon Baker, the actor who brings quirky Patrick Jane to life in “The Mentalist” actually hails from Australia and, after the camera stops rolling, speaks with an accent that makes me wish this Tasmanian devil would take me down under. Baker was born in Tasmania and broke into Australian TV in the late 80’s, popping up in several music videos. Baker stays close to his Aussie roots, naming fellow Aussies Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts as godmothers to his two sons.
Hugh Laurie has made Dr. Gregory House everyone’s favorite curmudgeonly doctor for so long that it’s easy to forget that before he started terrorizing the staff at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, he was part of the casts of “Blackadder” and “Jeeves and Wooster” for over a decade. Laurie is an Oxford-born Englishman who broke into comedy and music before landing the dramatic role that has come to define his career. Laurie is so English, in fact, that he once dated Emma Thompson, and the two remain friends to this day.
With a name like McKidd, and all that ginger hair, it doesn’t take a genius to guess that the strapping specimen of manly manliness that plays Dr. Own Hunt on “Grey’s Anatomy” is Scottish. Prior to landing at Seattle Grace, McKidd was able to let his Scottish brogue run free in roles like Tommy in “Trainspotting” and one of Mary Queen of Scots’ hubbies in a BBC mini-series. Kidd is also a musician and has a Scottish folk album set to be released this summer, with proceeds going to charity.
Maybe it’s the British in Ed Westwick that helps him play bad boy Chuck Bass to such New York upper-crust pretentious perfection. Westwick does such a good job that I’m still shocked every time I hear his real-life London accent. Ed, who says he had no formal training to master his American accent, is also the lead singer and writer in an indie punk band, The Filthy Youth.
Anna Paquin is just one of a slew of non-American, non-southern actors who rule the night with downright perfect drawls in “True Blood.” Anna was born in Canada and raised in New Zealand. At age 11, she became the second-youngest winner of an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the critically acclaimed film, “The Piano.” After that dramatic pinnacle, Anna went on to have a little more fun on screen in projects like “She’s All That” and the X-men franchise.
Here’s one more Aussie kicking ass playing American CIA agent Sarah Walker on “Chuck.” Sarah started acting with a part in a school production of “Twelfth Night.” Born to Polish emigrant parents, Sarah grew up just outside Sydney. She landed the role after sending in an audition tape to “Chuck” and “The Bionic Woman.” At the time she may have been bummed to lose out on “The Bionic Woman,” but it certainly turned out in everyone’s best interest that she didn’t get a role on the more hyped and now-defunct show.
Famous for playing the evil Captain Hook in “Hook” and the evil Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, I total expected to spot Isaacs’ fake accent in the new drama, “Awake.” I was completely delighted, however, when watching the series premier last week, to see Isaacs totally pull of the accent of a hard-boiled American detective mourning the loss of his wife and/or son (check out the series opener to understand that sentence).
Even fighting hordes of undead zombies isn’t enough to make Andrew Lincoln slip up on “The Walking Dead” and reveal his British accent. Lincoln has previously been seen in all his native English accent glory in films like “Love Actually.” Thankfully, Andrew changed his name to Lincoln from Clutterbuck – with a name like that, there’s no way he could have kept his British roots under wraps.
What other actors or actresses do you know of who use a fake accent?