The British Invasion . . . of American Television

Watching as much television as I do, I’ve noticed what seems to be turning into an enormous trend: British actors (and some actresses) playing Americans in American TV shows. The first one of these that was really noticeable was Hugh Laurie on the show House M.D. (which began in 2004), but I think the trend really picked up around 2007. Then, I found out about a few others in shows I watched: Damian Lewis on Life,, Anna Friel on Pushing Daisies, Yvonne Strahovski (Australia is, technically, British) on Chuck, the list goes on. There are several reasons for the trend, most of them having to do with money. I remember an interview High Laurie gave on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno where he said something to the effect that American television pays better than British television – to the point where he was willing to almost commute from England by living in LA during shooting and go back home in the off-season. According to an article in The Seattle Times, other reasons might include the fact that the BBC is currently in the process of making some big budget cutbacks and that some British shows run “as few as six episodes per season.” This helps to explain why so many are looking for work in the U.S., but why are so many of them getting hired over their American counterparts for leading roles? Same reason as before: money. According to an article in The New York Times, British actors are willing to play leading roles for “considerably less” than American actors – who usually get no less than $100,000 an episode.

So, in the end, even entertainment jobs in the U.S. are being outsourced to them-thar-feriners, ding-dang-it-all! Maybe American actors should learn to do convincing British accents, become popular abroad, and use that as an “in” to get hired in Hollywood. They could think to themselves “Mwaa haa haa, they don’t know I’m not British!” or something like that. Actually, it wouldn’t hurt a lot of American actors/actresses to get trained in England. They tend to train their thespians classically and avoid things like method acting. I know that method acting is very popular in the U.S., and there have been a few good method-trained actors in the past, but I think classically trained players have a better overall grasp of the craft (plus they’re taught to fence, what fun).

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