Being an expat actor in the UK, I’ve learnt to play to my strengths. So for me that looks like, I go with what comes easiest and hailing from North America I do what I do best and that is the standard American accent. Can I do other accents? Of course! Some people are better at this than others, what I mean is a small group can pick them up quickly, most are like me – when trained they can learn anything and then there is a small group again who just don’t do accents other than their own. All have had careers in the entertainment industry.
My general motto is there’s no point in competing with those from the UK, so I generally don’t unless I think I can do it from when I walk in the door.
Casting people, in my experience, make snap judgements, so I’d rather do my job well in the accent of my choice than do it OK and it really isn’t showing my best – auditions are about showing our best. It’s a bit like speed dating, they know in the 1st few minutes whether you want to take this conversation any further…
I work with accent coaches when I can. They aren’t there to fix everything, but they are there to make sure that key words or phrases are set in place, so any minor slips don’t matter when you’ve got a really good over gist. I’ve seen this a lot when we go back and forth over the Atlantic – British accents in America aren’t as British as the real thing and American accents in the UK aren’t as American sounding as they are in America. This is down to the audience, in my mind, sometimes the accents are too strong for these markets to understand, so they aren’t always so clean, but there is an exception when accents need to be the ‘real deal’ or forget it.
These times are when a casting breakdown says so, there is no point and you don’t win brownie points for showing how well you can do a foreign accent if they are wanting a native speaker. This is why I don’t often go for the UK accents, they can get someone better than me and with a lot less effort. Now there are those out there who can do accents very well, but please bear in mind, these people are rare and you do not do yourself any favours showing up to castings where it’s quite clear to everyone, but you that you don’t fit the accent. Personally, I just wouldn’t want to run the risk of getting on the wrong side of casting people, as their time is important and I wouldn’t appreciate it if someone hadn’t done their homework well enough, so I don’t wish to do that to others.
To be honest, I’ve got a lot of roles despite having a foreign accent because they like my work and are willing to be flexible with the role I’ve auditioned for. Sometimes, I’ve even been able to test out my RP accent in productions and its been very flattering when I get to do that, as I feel that’s a real risk for the director.
So my overall point – play to your strengths, if they like you, they will hire you or remember you because of you, not because you show off your versatility. The audition is your face to shine, so make it as easy as possible for you to do that and get the job 1st, then show them what you can do with your versatility.
How to find accent coaches?
- contact your local Equity branch – they often have a list of people
- ask other actors
- for American accents – contact American Actors UK – they have a list of North American coaches based in the UK
- join actor Facebook pages like BAN and ask if all else fails on these sorts of pages
What’s your experience? Share below!