With very little in the way of predecessors, it surprised most people when the English comedic actor Hugh Laurie was picked to star as the leading man in the Fox Television international hit ‘House’. Famous for at first being one part of the Fry and Laurie comedy duo, who revolutionised mainstream TV comedy during the 1980s and 90s, Hugh Laurie had almost disappeared from British television screens altogether when it was announced he was to move to America and become the anti-hero House MD, complete with flawless accent. However, Laurie has opened the gates to Hollywood it seems, as more and more British actors are following his lead and taking over prime-time American television.
No doubt trying to catch up on Fox’s head start, NBC has recruited its fair share of UK talent by casting Brits to star in three out of four of its new shows of 2010 – ‘Life’, ‘Journeyman’ and ‘Bionic Woman’. And likewise the network CBS isn’t far behind with Sophia Myles starring as the love interest in vampire drama ‘Moonlight’.
Though her biggest break on British TV was probably as Beth Jordache in Brookside, English actress Anna Friel has found international stardom thanks to clinching the lead part in ABC’s drama ‘Pushing Daisies’. Playing an all-American girl, this light-hearted fairytale comedy drama has made her a household name across the pond.
However this recent phenomenon perhaps isn’t as recent as it first appears, especially when cinema is taken into consideration too. London-born actress Minnie Driver has been playing American roles for almost two decades now, and contributes a particularly astute vocal coach to her success. And likewise English cross-dressing comedian Eddie Izzard has perhaps made the largest shift State-side thanks to landing significant roles in blockbusters like Valkyrie and Ocean’s Thirteen. Many actors, like Izzard and to a lesser extent Laurie, contribute their success to their classical Thespian training, whereas one of the biggest movie stars of the last couple of years barely even mentions his British heritage. Christian Bale, who has been dubbed The Franchise Saviour, after re-energising both the Batman and Terminator movie series’ in The Dark Knight and Terminator 3, is often overlooked as a Welsh actor, as he deliberately keeps his middle-American accent switched on in almost every interview.
For some actors though, the transition into international stardom is a more natural one, at least in the public eye anyway. Kevin Mocked, who was perhaps most famous for his interpretation of Tommy in Trainspotting, was almost about to give up his flailing acting career until the part of Lucius Vorenus fell into his hands on the epic TV drama ‘Rome’. From here the Morayshire-born actor has seamlessly joined the Grey’s Anatomy ensemble cast and is now one of the most famous Scottish actors world-wide.
Whether it’s thanks to a struggling British film industry, a knack for picking up an American accent or the number of great HD channels on offer today, there is just no denying how successful British actors have been when taking over America’s big and small screens.