23 Actors You Didn't Even Know Were British
Awards season is in full swing. It seems every weekend shiny trophies are being handed out, and this week our friends across the pond are hosting the party.
The BAFTAs, or British Academy Film and Television Awards, are a blend of the Golden Globes and the Oscars, except they’re British, so automatically, they sound cooler. Not only will they have Joanna Lumley (Patsy, darling, from Absolutely Fabulous) hosting the show on Feb. 18, but there will be a fantastic array of posh upper-received English accents from graduates of drama academies as well as some Adele-style cockney, not to mention some rich Welsh and Scottish brogues. If it weren’t for the fabulous gowns and rugged jaw lines on display (I’m looking at you Tom Hiddleston and Daniel Craig), I’d be tempted to just turn the sound on and listen.
However, you may be surprised if you do tune in to see some of the stars of your favorite TV shows speaking with an English lilt. Many of our American TV and movie characters are actually played by Brits! Check some of them out below.
Andrew grew up in Yorkshire as a child and attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He was on several popular TV series in London and married the daughter of famed English musician Jethro Tull — Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter was his flower girl. He even had a part in the classic British rom-com Love, Actually. You’d never know it by Lincoln’s accent for The Walking Dead’s Sheriff Rick Grimes of Georgia.
From his role as Stringer on The Wire, you wouldn’t have guessed Elba is from London proper. He attended the National Youth Theatre with a grant from the Prince’s Trust. He is known for his very British role of DCI John Luther, a detective in the BBC series Luther. He was even given an honor by the queen. That is British times 10.
Cattrall was born in Liverpool, but her family moved to Canada when she was very young. However, at 11, Cattrall returned to London to train at the Academy of Music And Dramatic Art. After a few film roles, she landed a contract with Universal Pictures, during which time she was able to perfect the American accent we all heard in roles like Mannequin and Samantha on Sex and The City.
Pike was born in London and went to school in Bristol, where she acted with the National Youth Theatre. She joined the very British clubs of playing a Bond girl and playing a Jane Austen character. It's hard to see how she convinced us all she was a conniving New York murderess in Gone Girl.
Scully... British? Yes, the truth is out there. Though she was born in Chicago, her family moved to London where she grew up in Crouch End. She also spent time in Michigan growing up and attended The Theatre School at DePaul. Anderson is bidialectal. She can easily shift between the two, which explains how she can go from hunting down aliens to playing British detective Stella Gibson (opposite Mr. Grey, Jamie Dornan) in The Fall and Miss Havisham in Dickens’ Great Expectations.
Dornan is actually from Belfast, Ireland, which is a completely different country than England. However, he pals around with Brits like Eddie Redmayne and once dated Keira Knightley. Dornan worked opposite Gillian Anderson in BBC’s thriller The Fall. But Americans will know him as The Huntsman in Once Upon A Time or, more likely, as Christian Grey.
Though Christopher Guest was technically born in America, his father, who was a member of Parliament, was the fourth Baron of Saling. So Guest is British nobility. Guest spent parts of his childhood in England, which shows when you hear his accent in the classic comedy Spinal Tap. Otherwise, you may never know he was a baron from seeing him play roles on Saturday Night Live and Taxi and in hilarious films like The Princess Bride, Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.
Born in California to a British mother and American father, Garfield spent his childhood in Surrey, U.K., and that is where he began studying acting. While in England, Garfield worked on shows like Dr. Who. His first big American movie was The Social Network. Then he became the iconic American superhero, Spider-Man.
Hunnam was born in Newcastle. Before playing California motorcycle outlaw, Jax, on Sons of Anarchy, Hunnam appeared in the British films Nicholas Nickleby, Cold Mountain and Children of Men. He even had a role in the British version of Queer as Folk, which made him quite famous across the pond.
Rhys is actually Welsh and was born in Cardiff. Before playing a Russian spy playing an American or journalist Daniel Ellsberg in The Post, he was on the ABC series Brothers & Sisters. If you want to check out his British accent, look him up in Titus with Anthony Hopkins and the BBC adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
West grew up in Sheffield, Yorkshire. Long before he was committing adultery as Noah (with fellow Brit Ruth Wilson) in The Affair, he was Baltimore’s Detective McNulty on The Wire. You can catch his actual accent in films like Richard the III, A Midsummer Night's Dream and the upcoming miniseries version of Les Misérables.
Wilson was born in Kent, which you could gather if you saw her opposite Idris Elba in Luther. Wilson has done a lot of Broadway and American films like The Lone Ranger and Saving Mrs. Banks, but you can hear her excellent American accent in the Showtime series The Affair.
Lewis was born in St. John’s Wood in London and was raised on the famous Abbey Road. He attended Eton College and then studied drama with classmates Daniel Craig and Joseph Fiennes. He was cast in Band of Brothers by Steven Spielberg and got a Golden Globe nomination using his American accent. He got to use it again when he starred as an American soldier (opposite fellow Brit Rupert Friend) in Homeland. Lest you doubt he sounds British, he played former Prime Minister Tony Blair in Confessions of a Diary Secretary.
Bale was born in Wales and lived in many countries growing up. He was able to switch between his American and British accents at a very young age when he was cast in Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun and then Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V. He may be best known as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho — which cemented him in American pop culture — that is, until he put on the black mask in Batman.
Laurie is sooooo British. He was born in Oxford, went to Eton, rowed for Cambridge and started a comedy troupe with Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry. He may as well be named Big Ben. But you wouldn’t know it by the irascible doctor character he played on the hit show House, which ran for eight years. Or by his ladder-climbing vice president, Tom James, in Veep. However, if you caught his performance as the creepy Dicky Roper in The Night Manager or any of his popular sketches in Laurie and Fry, you won’t be able to miss his Britishness.
Mulligan was born in London and spent some time growing up in Germany before she acted in Dr. Who, Pride & Prejudice and An Education, which landed her an Oscar nomination. She then landed the highly coveted role of the iconic American character Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby.
Dancy grew up in Staffordshire and acted in British films like David Copperfield and King Arthur. You may have thought he was American, however if you saw him play Will Graham in the spooky NBC series Hannibal or in the title role of Claire Danes’ baby daddy.
Barton was born in London and is a dual British and American citizen. Something you could never tell by her SoCal character Marissa Cooper in the popular teen series The O.C. However, she has done a lot of theater, including in Dublin, Ireland. She still divides her time between LA and London.
Sheen was born in Wales and has played such iconic Brits as Tony Blair and David Frost. However, to many Americans, he is most well known as Liz Lemon’s “future husband” Wesley Snipes or perhaps as his Emmy-nominated character Dr. William Masters in Masters of Sex.
Moyer grew up in Essex, where he started his own theater company. He went on to tour with the Royal Shakespeare Company before he put on a pair of fangs and joined the cast of True Blood.
Many mistake Watts for an American or Australian, but she was born in Kent. Watts did appear in several Australian films before her breakout role in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. With her accent in Birdman, King Kong, Fair Game and Twin Peaks, you’d never suspect she isn’t from the States.
Cavill grew up on an island in the English Channel. He was acting at an early age, getting cast in movies like The Count Of Monte Cristo and eventually the hit series The Tudors. He was named the most Dashing Duke by Entertainment Weekly and then landed possibly the most iconic American role of Superman in Man of Steel. Dashing indeed.
Hall was born in London to theater royalty — her father, Peter Hall, founded the Royal Shakespeare Company. She holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and the U.K., which may explain why she seemed utterly believable as Ben Affleck’s Bostonian girlfriend in the movie The Town and doomed Florida TV reporter Christine Chubbuck.