Every September brings a new wave of stealth Brits onto America’s airwaves. They look like Americans, they sound like Americans, but when the director calls “Cut!,” they immediately drop their R’s and start speaking the Queen’s English. In recent years, Hugh Laurie, Joseph Fiennes, Idris Elba, and The Good Wife‘s Emmy winner Archie Panjabi have been just a few of the UK-based actors who’ve made the transatlantic trek to U.S. TV stardom.
Which performers make up this year’s annual autumn British Invasion of U.S. television? In our first installment of The Tellyvangelist – a weekly guide to all that’s British on American TV – here’s a quick look:
Kelly Macdonald – Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
What’s This Show? Headlined by that hunky heartthrob known as Steve Buscemi, this is HBO’s big-budget period drama set in decadent, Prohibition-era Atlantic City. The show’s pedigree is impressive: not only is it executive-produced by Terence Winter of The Sopranos, the pilot was directed by Martin Scorsese.
Premiere Date: Sunday, September 20 at 9 pm EST
Who Does She Play?: Margaret Schroeder, an Irish immigrant whose toughness helps her survive an abusive marriage to an alcoholic husband.
Requires Yank Accent? Neither – she trades in her natural Scottish burr for an Irish brogue.
Where Have You Seen This Actress Before? The question is where haven’t you seen her before. Transpotting introduced her to the masses, and roles in films like Gosford Park, Finding Neverland, Nanny McPhee, and No Country For Old Men kept her in the limelight for the past decade. She played roving reporter Della in the original BBC series of State of Play and won an Emmy for her role opposite Bill Nighy in The Girl in the Café.
Stephen Graham – Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Who Does He Play Graham plays legendary real-life gangster Al Capone, grabbing the baton previously held by such actors such as Jason Robards, Robert DeNiro, and Ben Gazzara.
Requires a Yank Accent? Ya betta believe it.
Where Have You Seen Him Before? BBC AMERICA viewers saw him as drug-addicted soldier Danny in Occupation. But he’s been around for years, appearing in Guy Ritchie‘s Snatch, HBO’s Band of Brothers, Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, Shane Meadows‘ This Is England, and as Baby Face Nelson in Michael Mann‘s Public Enemies, opposite Johnny Depp.
Peter Serafinowicz – Running Wilde (Fox)
What’s This Show? From the makers of Arrested Development, this is Fox’s sitcom starring Will Arnett as “a filthy-rich, immature playboy” who is still fixated on his childhood crush (Keri Russell).
Premiere Date: Tuesday, September 21 at 9:30/8:30 pm EST
Who Does He Play?: He plays Fa’ad Shaoulin, whom Deadline describes as “the Oxford-accented neighbor and frenemy” of Will Arnett’s character.
Requires Yank Accent? Nope. He’s one of the few stars listed here who gets to speak in his own accent.
Where Have You Seen Him Before? Serafinowicz has appeared in films like Shaun of the Dead and Couples Retreat, but Anglophiles know the comedian best from his role as Duane on the Simon Pegg sitcom Spaced and from his documentary spoof series Look Around You.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Undercovers (NBC)
What’s This Show? J.J. Abrams‘ thriller drama about retired married spies (Mbatha-Raw and Soul Food‘s Boris Kodjoe) who are called back into the espionage fold.
Premiere Date: Wednesday, September 22 at 8 pm EST
What’s Her Role? Samantha Bloom, a gifted CIA operative.
Requires Yank Accent? Yes indeed.
Where Have You Seen Her Before? If David Tennant‘s NBC pilot couldn’t get picked up, at least Doctor Who fans could rest assured that another alum would find a home on the Peacock Network. The Oxford-born, RADA-trained Mbatha-Raw played Martha’s sister Tish in Series 3 of the popular sci-fi series. She also appeared as Jenny in Series 5 of MI-5.
Eamonn Walker – The Whole Truth (ABC)
What’s This Show? A legal procedural that reveals the truth behind each case at the end of the episode.
Premiere Date: Wednesday, September 22 at 10 pm EST
What’s His Role? He plays Sr. ADA Terrence “Edge” Edgecomb. Yes, his name is Edge, and no, he doesn’t have a switchblade in his back pocket.
Requires Yank Accent? Yes.
Where Have You Seen Him Before? He played Kareem Said on HBO’s Oz for almost six spectacularly bloody seasons. He’s also shown up on ER, BBC’s Bonekickers, and NBC’s cancelled drama Kings.
Christine Adams – The Whole Truth (ABC)
What’s Her Role? Lena Boudreaux, an ambitious young defense attorney with “Ivy League swagger and elegance.”
Requires Yank Accent? Yep – her character is New Orleans-born. (Let’s just hope she lost it in law school because there’s nothing more painful on the ears than a bad Big Easy accent.)
Where Have You Seen Her Before? She was Simone, Chi McBride‘s love interest, on the short-lived ABC series Pushing Daisies. She also appeared on BBC AMERICA’s transatlantic romantic drama NY-LON, and like Gugu Mbatha-Raw, she’s a Doctor Who alum. She played Cathica, a journalist with a chip implanted in her brain, for the Season 1 episode “The Long Game”.
Julian Morris – My Generation (ABC)
What’s This Show? ABC’s latest attempt to create a fun, sexy ensemble lead-in to Grey’s Anatomy. This one is a faux-documentary about nine high school seniors and how they’ve all screwed up their lives in the following decade.
Premiere Date: Thursday, September 23 at 8 pm EST
What’s His Role? He’s Anders Holt, a.k.a. “The Rich Kid” who becomes a real estate executive at his wealthy father’s company. With a name like “Anders,” could he have been anything else?
Requires Yank Accent? Check.
Where Have You Seen Him Before? Mr. Morris has had remarkably good luck picking U.S. TV projects. He’s appeared as Dr. Andrew Wade on ER and Agent Owen on 24. He also recently starred on the much-talked-about ABC Family series Pretty Little Liars. Let’s see if his winning streak continues.
Rebecca Hazlewood – Outsourced (NBC)
What’s This Show? NBC’s latest Thursday workplace comedy. This one’s a fish-out-of-water comedy about an American white guy who’s transferred to his company’s call center in India. The show’s already getting creamed in the press for perpetuating South Asian stereotypes.
Premiere Date: Thursday, September 23 at 9:30 pm EST
Who Does She Play? Asha, a member of the Indian sales team who is described as “a smart, striking woman.” Sounds hilarious.
Requires Yank Accent? Nope.
Where Have You Seen Her Before? Our Anglophiles in the crowd know her from Bad Girls, the Clive Owen TV thriller Second Sight, and the recent Master of the Universe.
Sacha Dhawan – Outsourced (NBC)
Who Does He Play? He plays Indian call center employee Manmeet (talk about your double entendres).
Requires Yank Accent? Nope.
Where Have You Seen Him Before? He played Akthar in the original production of The History Boys and continued the role on Broadway and in the film adaptation.
Alfred Molina – Law & Order: Los Angeles (NBC)
What’s This Show? Donk donk! This is the latest edition to Dick Wolf‘s forever expanding franchise. Except this one has better lighting and better-looking guest stars.
Premiere Date: Wednesday, September 29 at 10 pm EST
What’s His Role? He’s Deputy District Attorney Peter Morales, “a sarcastic realist who believes moral righteousness is great in theory, but ineffective in a street fight.”
Requires Yank Accent? Indeed. Don’t worry about Alfred Molina, though – he does a fabulous one.
Where Have You Seen Him Before? Molina has the Accent of Evil on lockdown, playing an array of bad guys from Spider-Man 2‘s Doc Ock to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice‘s Maxim Horvath. But he’s also simply one of Britain’s finest character actors, both on film (Frida, An Education, Prick Up Your Ears) and on stage (the recent Broadway hit Red).
Andrew Lincoln – The Walking Dead (AMC)
What’s This Show? Call it Survivors meets 28 Days Later: this six-episode series looks at life after a “zombie apocalypse.”
Premiere Date: This Halloween at 10 pm EST
What’s His Role? Lincoln plays Rick Grimes, a pistol-toting police officer determined to kick some major zombie booty.
Requires Yank Accent? Yes, but judging by the trailer, Lincoln’s rural drawl is a bit shaky. We’re talking Joseph Fiennes-in-FlashForward shaky.
Where Have You Seen Him Before? Lincoln played the sneaky lad secretly in love with his best friend’s wife (Keira Knightley) in the hit film Love Actually and just this year appeared in the French rom-com Heartbreaker. Previously, he helped define ’90s Britain playing one of several horny young lawyers sharing a flat in the drama This Life.
Lennie James – The Walking Dead (AMC)
What’s His Role? Morgan Jones, a psychologically scarred survivor of the apocalypse who helps Rick.
Requires Yank Accent? Yes.
Where Have You Seen Him Before? James is no stranger to U.S. TV, having appeared on shows such as Jericho and AMC’s remake of The Prisoner. BBCA fans may recall his work on the miniseries The State Within, co-starring Jason Isaacs and Sharon Gless.Read More