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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » American TV show with non-American actors (Page 1)

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Author Topic: American TV show with non-American actors
paigereader
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I find it amazing how many shows I watch that have English, Irish, Scottish, and Austrailian actors playing Americans. In most cases it would not hurt the story line any to just let them have their natural accents, either.
Life on Mars
Grey's Anatomy
Life
Chuck
Brothers and Sisters
Without a Trace
Medium
The Mentalist
Is it because they can get quality actors for less $?
Most of the actors do a good job with the american accent, some (Joe from Medium) do not.
Can you think of other shows?

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JennaDean
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Portia de Rossi is in that new show, Better Off Ted.

And I'm surprised you missed House. He's amazing.

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paigereader
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I am a ding-dong... can't believe I missed House either.
Really, I never knew Portia.

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Mucus
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Lee in BSG (British)

Of course most science fiction filmed in Vancouver which is a pretty big list including the Stargates, BSG, and so forth will also have large contingents of Canadian actors.

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katharina
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Who isn't American on Grey's Anatomy?
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Teshi
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I had no idea those shows had non-Americans in. House was the one that sprung to mind for me.

quote:
Is it because they can get quality actors?
Fixed it for you. [Razz]

Seriously, though, I think there are a few reasons why British actors (I can't speak to Australians) find themselves faking an American accent rather than the other way around. First of all, there's a bigger television market in America: more job opportunities. That is what attracts the actor in the first place.

Why do so many of them actually end up on screen? I think it's because the British acting scene, ironically, is more classless than the American acting scene. British actors, for example, Hugh Laurie, are often trained for the stage, have appeared in comedic and dramatic productions on screen and stage, have been a few high profile movies and a few more low profile ones, have even been the source of their own television show. And they don't go up to the 'top' (high profile movies) and stay there, they go all around.

American actors are much more delineated. Can you imagine Brad Pitt, mega movie star, appearing as anything but himself in an episode of The Office or appearing in a low-budget film?

There are American, lower profile actors, who cross bounderies that I know of (and likely plenty that I don't). Gary Sinese is the one I can think of off the top of my head, having appeared in high profile film, television and theatre. Thinking of famous British actors I find it hard to find someone who sticks soley to high profile film. Even child actors like Daniel Radcliffe quickly make the transition to theatre, even if they may not stay there.

And yes, I do think that this kind of actor is of a higher calibre than the Brad Pitt kind which is only a filmstar in a narrow band of movies. I think their level of intelligence has to be higher, their experience is better, their knowledge is broader. In short, they tend to be better, more interesting, actors (and people).

I've written elsewhere about the looks of American actors vs. British ones. American television and films are full of standard good-looking people with excellent hair cuts and teeth. British television has good looking people but often also people who are "offbeat" pleasant-looking, rather than ordinary. Think Christopher Eccleston rather than Brad Pitt, or indeed, Gary Sinese rather than Brad Pitt. Women tend to vary a lot less.

I think this reflects the reality of the world better, and allows people with personality (as well as pleasant looks) to enter the world of acting rather than people with excellent looks and very little personality. I don't deny that Angelina Jolie is gorgeous and probably a kind and generous person, but she doesn't really have much in the way of personality beyond that.

All in all, I think the way the British system (at least) is set up, it produces slightly more interesting, intelligent actors. Not to say that interesting, intelligent, comedic actors don't emerge in America, but they seem to be relegated to odd corners and smaller (often more interesting) roles.

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JennaDean
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Ooh, I just remembered. The star of that new series Kings, Christopher Egan, is Australian. I thought he did a phenomenal job with his American accent; I would never have known if I hadn't IMDB'd him.
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lobo
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I think it has more to do with American's not really caring where the actors are coming from.

Other countries have a COW when an American is cast in a non-American role. IE. Renee Zelweger in Bridget Jones and NO Americans in Harry Potter.

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paigereader
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Mc Amry on grey's (guy from Journeyman)is Scottish.
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JennaDean
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quote:
Other countries have a COW when an American is cast in a non-American role. IE. Renee Zelweger in Bridget Jones and NO Americans in Harry Potter.
I can't really blame them. We're everywhere. They get a lot more American TV than we get British or Australian TV. When you have a show that has to be British, like Harry Potter or Doctor Who, it's no wonder they want to make sure to keep it British.

Incidentally, I think this is why they're so much better at American accents than most Americans are at foreign accents - they're exposed to our accent all the time. Not so for most Americans (being immersed in British or Scottish or Australian accents).

Of couse, it could just be that for the most part, British actors have better training than most American actors.

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Teshi
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quote:
I think it has more to do with American's not really caring where the actors are coming from.
That does make a lot of sense. But there is a smaller market in Britain and I presume Australia so even for 'non-British' roles like in modern shows there wouldn't be a surplus of American actors available anyway.

Johnny Depp has bucked this trend in playing a fair number of British roles (Willy Wonka) as well as roles with British accents. I think the British thing applies to things like Harry Potter because it's regarded as a national monument-- as was Gone With The Wind, when there was an uproar over that one (given that was sixty+ years ago). This does not apply to even a majority of ordinary British television.

I've seen shows with British actors attempting to play American roles in British shows. Surely there would be no hang-ups where the actual character is American. In fact, it would make significantly more sense, as sometimes the American accents are atrociously overdone just as certain North American actors fail at British accents.

I think that the reason actors flood here is because there is a lot of work here.

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katharina
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quote:
Mc Amry on grey's (guy from Journeyman)is Scottish.
Who is Mc Amry?
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twinky
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Kiefer Sutherland (better known as Jack Bauer) is also not American -- he's English born and Canadian-raised.
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Achilles
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Um. House.
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katharina
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Read the whole thread before responding.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by paigereader:
I find it amazing how many shows I watch that have English, Irish, Scottish, and Austrailian actors playing Americans. In most cases it would not hurt the story line any to just let them have their natural accents, either.
Life on Mars
Grey's Anatomy
Life
Chuck
Brothers and Sisters
Without a Trace
Medium
The Mentalist
Is it because they can get quality actors for less $?
Most of the actors do a good job with the american accent, some (Joe from Medium) do not.
Can you think of other shows?

I can't believe you left out House. And Eli Stone. And BSG. And Damages (both Ellen and David's sister are Brits). Journeyman isn't on anymore, but that was one, too.

And this is only Brits and Aussies. It isn't even counting the enormous number of Canadians playing Americans. Granted, they sort of are Americans, almost, but still.

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Achilles
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quote:
Originally posted by katharina:
Read the whole thread before responding.

Why?
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katharina
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House has been mentioned many times.
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paigereader
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Kevin McKidd is Dr. Hunt (emergency room)on grey's. I typed Mc amry instead MC ARMY
I wonder why on House- House has to be American but they let Chase be Austrailian? Because no British doctor would act like a stereo-typical horse's behind American?

[ March 19, 2009, 11:49 AM: Message edited by: paigereader ]

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Selran
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Don't forget about House. [Wink]
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scifibum
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I suspect one reason it's hard for me to pick out a fake American accent because there are so many regional accents in the US that I might attribute a slight deviation from American Broadcast Standard English to growing up in Minnesota or Alabama. I don't always catch the difference between different New England accents right off the bat, so I don't know that I'd be able to spot a Briton who sounded mostly American.

Of course I know that England (not to mention Great Britain) has a variety of regional accents as well. I'm sure that some bad attempts at British accents don't conform closely enough to ANY of them to be passable. I wonder if fake British accents sometimes combine different regional qualities in the wrong way or something. (I suppose if a British actor trying to sound American had a combination of broad Bostonian "A" and Great Lakes "dontcha know" it'd tip me off.)

House.

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Achilles
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quote:
Originally posted by Achilles:
quote:
Originally posted by katharina:
Read the whole thread before responding.

Why?[/sarchasm]
Fixed that for me. [Wink]
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Nighthawk
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quote:
Originally posted by Achilles:
Um. House.

I was stunned when I heard him speak in his native accent.

Can't wait to see what voice he brings to Dr. Cockroach in Monsters vs. Aliens.

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katharina
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The worst American accent I've heard a Brit do was one third Bronx, one-third Ebonics, and one-third Southern Belle. Hilarious and painful.
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paigereader
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The worst American accent I've heard a Brit do was on As Time Goes By. Yikes! Painful to think
they think we sound like that.

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Bella Bee
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I can think of a few British shows with Americans playing Americans. Hustle , for one. Torchwood as well - I think John Barrowman and Burn Gorman are US citizens and James Marsters certainly is, two of whom were playing British.
I'm sure there are others.

As for fake Americans, there was an all round terrible series called Demons on British TV recently with Philip Glenister (of Life on Mars fame) playing a 'Texan'. His accent was unbelievably, bad.

I watched a French show the other day where they had an English guy, playing an American guy, speaking French, which was quite confusing. So I guess the phenomenon is international.

I can think of quite a few Americans who do amazing English accents. I wouldn't have guessed that the actors who played Wesley from Buffy/Angel or Mohinder from Heroes were American (although if Mohinder's meant to sound Indian, it's terrible).
There are bad ones but luckily they're usually guest stars. I can think of a lot in movies, like Natalie Portman in V For Vendetta. Ouch.
Weirdly, one of the worst regional English accents ever on American TV was Daphne from Frasier, and the actress was actually British.

Oh, and I don't think anyone has mentioned The Sarah Connor Chronicles yet.

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Dobbie
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quote:
Originally posted by Bella Bee:


IxWeirdly, one of the worst regional English accents ever on American TV was Daphne from Frasier, and the actress was actually British.

So was John Mahoney, and he didn't have any accent.
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orlox
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quote:
Originally posted by JennaDean:
Ooh, I just remembered. The star of that new series Kings, Christopher Egan, is Australian. I thought he did a phenomenal job with his American accent; I would never have known if I hadn't IMDB'd him.

Not to mention Ian McShane. And in Deadwood especially.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Bella Bee:
There are bad ones but luckily they're usually guest stars. I can think of a lot in movies, like Natalie Portman in V For Vendetta. Ouch.

Natalie Portman is Israeli.

quote:
Originally posted by Bella Bee:
Oh, and I don't think anyone has mentioned The Sarah Connor Chronicles yet.

I'm ashamed to say it, but you're right.
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scifibum
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Oh, the shame of not being the geekiest of the TV geeks. [Razz] [Big Grin]
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Epictetus
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He doesn't do a very good American accent, but Eddie Izzard in The Riches is British.
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Tatiana
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The worst accents that I've heard are Americans from other parts of the country trying to do southern accents. I remember Sally Fields in Norma Rae was horrible. Everyone else in the movie was fine because practically all were local except for one character from New York. Her accent grated on me through the whole film.

Even some southerners do an exaggerated version of a southern accent that really grates.

Vivian Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara was bad too.

I can't think of other examples right now but they are legion.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Dobbie:
quote:
Originally posted by Bella Bee:


IxWeirdly, one of the worst regional English accents ever on American TV was Daphne from Frasier, and the actress was actually British.

So was John Mahoney, and he didn't have any accent.
Her faux American accent on the show was hilarious.
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scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by Tatiana:
The worst accents that I've heard are Americans from other parts of the country trying to do southern accents. I remember Sally Fields in Norma Rae was horrible. Everyone else in the movie was fine because practically all were local except for one character from New York. Her accent grated on me through the whole film.

Even some southerners do an exaggerated version of a southern accent that really grates.

Vivian Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara was bad too.

I can't think of other examples right now but they are legion.

I thought the Marlene supporting character from an episode of Seinfeld ("Jeeeerry...I just don't know sometimes.") had a pretty gratingly bad southern accent.
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JennaDean
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quote:
Originally posted by Tatiana:
The worst accents that I've heard are Americans from other parts of the country trying to do southern accents.

So, so true. Perhaps it's really bad to me because I live down here. There are several different types of southern accents - Carolinian, Georgia/Florida, Texan, etc - but none of them sound like what's usually on TV.

I just watched Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? again, though, and while George Clooney's accent was different than the ones around me, I didn't hate it. He did pretty well.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Nighthawk:
quote:
Originally posted by Achilles:
Um. House.

I was stunned when I heard him speak in his native accent.
So you never watched the live-action 1001 Dalmatians? Or the episode of Friends where Rachel flies to London to stop Ross and Emily's wedding? [Wink]

But I had a similar reaction the first time I saw an interview with Rachel Griffiths. She does flatten her vowels a teensy bit, but otherwise her American accent is flawless. Certainly nothing I noticed before I was listening for it.

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Cashew
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Rose on Two and a Half Men Is Melanie Lynskey, New Zealander.

And Anna Paquin, also a Kiwi (although born in Canada, moved to NZ at age 4), plays Sookie Stackhouse on True Blood.

Xena, Lucy Lawless, another Kiwi.

And Phil Keoghan, Amazing Race host, is another Kiwi. His American accent is bizarre.

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Cashew
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Also, from my long perspective, the time was when Americans trying to do English accents were absolutely laughable, the most extreme case probably being Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. And English actors attempting American accents were equally a joke. Nowadays though, the accents generally seem much more accurate.
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imogen
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The reason Australians flock to Hollywood is the opportunity - in terms of number of roles, pay and exposure.

I think JennaDean is right about immersion - not only is most of the drama on our tv American, we also get all the US reality shows. I would guess that local programming is actually the minority.

As to why Americans don't fake Australian accents in Australian shows? Australian drama is either too low budget to attract anyone but local actors, too low exposure, or too intrinsically Australian to be able to cast anyone but Australians.

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orlox
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
quote:
Originally posted by Nighthawk:
quote:
Originally posted by Achilles:
Um. House.

I was stunned when I heard him speak in his native accent.
So you never watched the live-action 1001 Dalmatians? Or the episode of Friends where Rachel flies to London to stop Ross and Emily's wedding? [Wink]

Hugh Laurie in Black Adder. A classic British comedy series.

Edit for context.

[ March 20, 2009, 12:01 PM: Message edited by: orlox ]

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Cashew
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Hugh Laurie IS British.
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imogen
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[Smile] Indeed.

Also, I think perhaps the reason why Australians/Brits/Canadians have to fake the accents is perhaps a non-American lead player wouldn't go over so well. (And there may well be a back story in the series, based on an American upbringing.)

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AvidReader
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quote:
There are several different types of southern accents - Carolinian, Georgia/Florida, Texan, etc
I can not believe you compared the Florida accent to the Georgian. There might be a few places in the Panhandle that do, but we call them Lower Alabama, so that's ok.

For some reason, most of the "southern" accents I hear in Florida are from Pennsylvania and Ohio. Then there's the folks that still have a touch of the New York accent after twenty years. We mix down to a fairly bland Standard American accent, really.

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Jeorge
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What really frustrates me is when they get foreigners (for example, people from Massachusetts) to play characters with a Maine Down-East accent.

Makes me cringe every time. [Big Grin]

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JennaDean
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AvidReader: Um, yeah, I'm from north Florida. The part just south of Georgia, so we don't call it lower Alabama, we call it south Georgia.

North Florida is the south, but you get anywhere south of Daytona and you're north again.

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paigereader
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THEN YOU HAVE MY FAVORITES... AMERICANS LIVING IN ENGLAND THAT "PICKED UP" AN ENGLISH ACCENT. PICKING UP SLANG IS ONE THING, BUT COME ON MADONNA- YOU ARE FROM DETROIT.
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Teshi
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The worst North American to British Accent I've heard is Amanda Tapping on Sanctuary. I wish they would tone it down or phase it out like Deanna Troi's accent on Star Trek.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
Oh, the shame of not being the geekiest of the TV geeks. [Razz] [Big Grin]

There are standards, man.
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SenojRetep
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Daniel Dae Kim on Lost was raised in America and gives interviews with a typical American accent, but plays a character who speaks little or no English (initially). His halting English on the show (less halting this season, but still) has a much more pronounced Korean accent than his natural conversation contains.
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JennaDean
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quote:
THEN YOU HAVE MY FAVORITES... AMERICANS LIVING IN ENGLAND THAT "PICKED UP" AN ENGLISH ACCENT. PICKING UP SLANG IS ONE THING, BUT COME ON MADONNA- YOU ARE FROM DETROIT.
This is the reverse of what happened to John Barrowman - he's Scottish, but came to America as a school-age child and got teased so much for his accent that he learned an American accent. For some reason this doesn't bother me as much as Madonna's does, though. Of course, he was much younger when he made the move, so his accent is really good. Sounds authentic. Madonna just sounds weird.
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