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The Accented American: the new voices of British stardom on US television

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-82
JournalJournal Of British Cinema And Television
Early online dateJan 2015
DOIs
E-pub ahead of printJan 2015
Published2015

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Abstract

This article investigates the cycle of British performers in contemporary American television drama and what is at stake in their adoption of a US accent. British actors have been increasingly heralded for their ability to adopt credible foreign accents, marking a negotiation of ‘Britishness’ and assumed vocal ‘foreignness.’ By examining several pilot episodes of contemporary US dramas, this article poses the hybrid voice of the ‘accented American’ as a privileged and self-reflexive form of sonic spectacle. This is a voice narratively ‘othered’ to reinforce the screen presence of the British actor-as-American, soliciting spectators’ attention to their extra-textual identities as non-natives, whilst paradoxically consecrating ‘Britishness’ through the individual actor’s quality command of American language. The article then concludes by scrutinising the post-9/11 captive narrative of successful US drama Homeland (Showtime, 2011-). Through its themes of dubious patriotic allegiance, Homeland inscribes the cultural discourses surrounding Damian Lewis’s starring role and falsified Americanness. The series also operates as a valuable commentary upon the wider proliferation of British talent across US television, revealing the ways in which such small-screen dramas are helping to regenerate prior conceptions of British stardom.

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