Actors are incredibly skilled at bringing characters to life on screen. After all, that’s their job! Sure, on some level, you know that they’re an A-List celebrity with a long list of credits. However, while you’re watching that movie or television show, you’re transported. You believe them to be their character, and forget that their real life persona exists, even momentarily.
For some actors, it goes beyond just learning a character’s lines. They have to learn entirely different accents! Many actors manage to snag roles where the character isn’t from where they’re originally from, and an accent would seem very out of place. So, a celeb from Scotland with a heavy accent has to learn to put on a Valley Girl accent. Or, someone with a thick Southern drawl needs to learn to speak as though they were raised in posh London society. It’s definitely not easy! Heck, even learning accents from different parts of the country you’re from can be incredibly difficult! There’s a reason so many actors choose to work with dialect coaches.
Since there’s so much American entertainment, there are plenty of Brits who come to work on the other side of the pond. If you’re not familiar with who they are and you only see them in the projects that make them a big star, you might simply assume they’re American. After all, they don’t have any kind of accent, so they must be, right? Well, that’s because they’re amazing actors — the moment you catch one of these celebs in an interview with their actual accent, you’ll be stunned.
Here are 15 celebrities we totally forgot were British.
While he’s been in the entertainment industry for a while, there’s no denying that The Walking Dead was Andrew Lincoln’s break-out role. People were utterly obsessed with that show, and his character of Rick Grimes was a fan favorite. Lincoln has a strong Southern accent for the show, and many people assumed he was from the South — or, from America, at the very least.
It turns out, Lincoln was actually born in London! While he’s had his British accent for a few roles, such as his part in Love, Actually, he does play American characters quite a bit. Perhaps his stage name was a bit of foreshadowing — his actual birth name is Andrew Clutterbuck, but he picked the patriotic Andrew Lincoln as a stage name back in his younger days.
It’s often the actors who have managed to play characters on television shows for seasons on end that truly surprise us. Most people know Charlie Hunnam from his role in the television drama Sons of Anarchy. While he had a few credits under his belt when he snagged that role, he definitely wasn’t a household name. As Jackson “Jax” Teller, he earned fans around the world who knew him by his American accent.
However, Hunnam was actually born in Newcastle in the UK! And his path to the entertainment industry was actually kind of hilarious. It turns out, he was discovered when hew as just a teenager while trying to buy shoes for his brother at a store. Crazy!
Most huge Hugh Laurie fans will know he’s British and rose to fame there in the sketch comedy duo Fry and Laurie. He had a successful career as a comedian throughout the ’80s and ’90s. He became a true household name a bit later in life, though, when he snagged the role as the cranky and brilliant Dr. Gregory House on the show House.
Since he played the character for so many seasons, many people just assumed he was American. After all, his accent was totally on point! However, if you ever see him talking in an interview, you’ll see that he has a true posh British accent.
Andrew Garfield may have snagged the role of Spiderman, an all-American boy turned superhero — but his reality is a little different. Originally, he’s from Surrey, a region in England. It seems like he’s been in the entertainment industry forever, but in fact, he didn’t make his Hollywood debut until he got his role in The Social Network in 2010.
Now, he’s obviously still pretty young and has a long career ahead of him. However, because he’s played primarily American characters in his roles abroad, many people simply assume he’s American. We’d love to see him tackle a few more roles where he can use his actual British accent.
Most people got to know actor Ed Westwick when he got the role of the often controversial Chuck Bass on the teen drama Gossip Girl. The show ran for six seasons and Westwick’s character was often at the center of all the drama. As Chuck Bass, Westwick had a bit of an unusual posh American accent, and many people assumed it was just a character choice on his part.
However, those moments where his accent seems a little bit off could simply be the moments where his natural British accent is peeking through! Though he rose to fame playing an American teen and has been in a lot of American projects, he was originally born in London. He’s returned to his British roots recently, playing a character in a BBC television series called White Gold.
Between all the characters they play and the places they’ve lived over the years, it can be nearly impossible to track where some celebrities are originally from! That’s certainly the case with blonde bombshell Naomi Watts.
Most people simply assume that Watts is Australian since she really got her start in the entertainment industry there. After all, most celebrities who start on Aussie television and move to America once they’ve reached a certain level of success are Australians. Why else would they be there?
Watts has a bit of a different journey. She was born in the UK, in Kent, and spent her childhood years in England. She didn’t move to Australia until she was about 14 years old.
Christian Bale is a total master of transformation when it comes to his characters. From changing his accent to completely changing his body shape, he’s able to become whoever he’s playing on screen. Many people know him from roles where he’s playing American characters, and just assume that’s where he’s from. However, in reality, he was born in Wales and raised in England.
Bale has always been fearless about the types of roles he picks and wasn’t content to stick to British roles because of his accent. Once he decided he was going to pursue acting with all his heart, he went for whatever roles captured his attention. Then, he simply learned to master the American accent. Impressive!
Damian Lewis has had a lot of roles on American television. Some people remember him from the incredible mini-series Band of Brothers, where he played an American soldier. Then, Lewis used his accent again in Homeland. He also took on a businessman character in the show Billions — again, with an American accent.
So, if you’ve only ever seen Damian Lewis on screen, there’s a very real chance that you’d just assume he’s American. Sure, his accent changes a bit depending on the character, but it’s pretty consistent. Well, that’s just good acting on his part — in reality, he was born in London. Lewis was actually raised on the famous Abbey Road, popularized by The Beatles, and attended Eton College with classmates that included Joseph Fiennes and Daniel Craig.
Okay, we’ve got to give Will Poulter props. It’s hard enough for a veteran actor to master a foreign accent. For an actor just starting out, in his early 20s? It’s majorly impressive.
Despite the fact that he’s only 26 years old, Poulter has been in a string of hits, including The Maze Runner, We’re The Millers, and the new Netflix choose-your-own-adventure style movie, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. You might have assumed he was just another rising American starlet, but in reality, he was born in Hammersmith in London. He had a positively British upbringing, attending The Harrodian School in southwest London, before entering the entertainment industry.
Dominic Cooper got his start in British entertainment After training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, he began getting roles on stage. He toured with a production of the play The History Boys and has also been on stage in several Royal National Theatre adaptations.
However, international audiences got to know him when he snagged the leading role as Jesse Custer on the AMC show Preacher. For that role, Cooper has a super thick Southern accent, and absolutely masters it — to the point where many assume he’s a Southern actor! In reality, though, the London-born actor is about as British as they come.
It’s hard enough for American actors to master the tricky Southern drawl, so we’re twice as impressed when someone from another country entirely manages to do it! Most people know Stephen Moyer from his role in the hit HBO series True Blood. He played vampire Bill Compton and had a thick Southern drawl that was just as amazing as co-star (and wife) Anna Paquin’s. However, in reality, Moyer was born in Essex in England.
When deciding to pursue a career as an actor, Moyer didn’t head for Hollywood immediately. Instead, he graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and then worked for five years in theatre. He honed his craft working with The Royal Shakespeare Company, the Oxford Stage Company, and the National Theatre Wales. Only after all that did he decide to give Hollywood a try.
Rosamund Pike has played plenty of British characters over the years and has appeared in movies like Die Another Day and Pride & Prejudice. She actually looks a bit like the typical English rose. So, why do so many people assume she’s American?
Well, it’s likely because of her breakout role in the thriller Gone Girl. While Pike has been in the industry for quite a while, her role as Amy Dunne in the smash hit movie definitely made her a household name. And, many people only knew her as an American, so they were surprised to hear her crisp British accent in interviews.
We’re not sure whether she’ll continue to play American characters or head back to Britain, but we can’t wait to see where her career takes her.
Mischa Barton got her start in the entertainment industry when she as quite young, taking on several film roles over the years. However, she became a legitimate star when she snagged the role of the beautiful yet troubled Marissa Cooper on the hit teen drama The O.C. She was playing the quintessential wealthy California girl, and many assumed that Barton and her on-screen character had a lot in common.
However, it turns out that Mischa Barton is actually British! She’s been playing characters on American shows since she was just a kid, but she was in fact born in London. Her father’s job took the family to New York City for a period, so Barton is actually a naturalized citizen, but she still keeps her British citizenship.
Kim Cattrall’s most iconic role, without question, is as the controversial Samantha Jones in the television series Sex and the City (and the later movies). Her American accent is flawless, and she even speaks in an American accent in interviews. So, you would never assume that she’s actually British.
However, while she played a New Yorker for years on screen, she was actually born in Liverpool. She spent several years in Canada as a child and returned to her native England when she was just 11 years old to study her craft at the Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in London. She knew she wanted to be in the entertainment industry!
Since she bounced around so much as a child, she never developed a thick British accent, but you can definitely hear traces of an accent from time to time when she speaks.
Henry Cavill played what is probably the most quintessential American role of all time on screen — Superman. He played the comic book legend in the movie Man of Steel and looked like a typical American superhero. However, if you’ve ever heard him in interviews, you’ll know that his accent is about as far from Clark Kent’s as you could imagine.
He was born in the Channel Islands and eventually ended up moving to mainland Britain. He’s played a few British roles over the years, but he transitions seamlessly to American characters with the blink of an eye.
Getting any sort of role in the DC Universe is pretty much a guarantee that you’ll skyrocket to superstardom, which is exactly what happened for Cavill.
References: Kiwi Report, EW, SheKnows