The new invasion: British actors doing the American accent

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HOLLYWOOD, CA - It looks like some foreign workers are taking that "Speak American!" thing very seriously.   In fact, there's a wave of good-looking aliens stealing some of our highest paying jobs, and nobody's doing anything about it.

We're talking about folks such as Rosamund Pike, Daniel Day-Lewis, Kate Winslet and the list goes on and on.  British actors doing American accents… Sounds like comedy.  But you'll see them in comedies, dramas, action movies and TV shows too.

Take Andrew Lincoln, for instance, the leading actor on AMC's horror show The Walking Dead: he sounds like a Southerner but was born in London.  Or Idris Elba, the thug from HBO's The Wire.  And finally English actor Christian Bale… The Dark Knight… who played the main roles on films American Psycho and American Hustle.  Ironic, isn't it?

"A lot of Brits tend to be quite good at doing an American accent," said Jim Johnson, voice coach and Associate Professor at University of Houston.  "Part of why I think they can do that is because they're dealing with huge accent variations even in small geographical areas."

So, how do they do it, governor?  Is it a special kind of tea they drink?

"Their actors also understand, perhaps, more technical aspects of the acting," Johnson added.  "They tend to work from the outside-in, as opposed to American actors, that tend to focus on the inside-out… So, it's about the emotion and the connection, and sometimes they don't focus on the technical skills that it takes to be able to pull off an accent."

But of course we do have our skillful talents, such as Meryl Streep or even Leonardo DiCaprio whose Irish character in Gangs of New York has made its mark.

"I teach actors how to learn an accent," Johnson explained.  "The way it works is usually they're given a script so they know the words that they need to say.  So I'm focused primarily on the sound changes and getting them to sound like an honest real human being who speaks in that very different way."

American accent, British accent… Two nations separated by a common language, but united by the love of art.