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We all have our favorite actors, but we don’t necessarily get to hear them use their native accents when working. That’s about to change, at least in this space. We’ve compiled a roundup of British and Irish actors, actually utilizing their native tongue when in character.

Here’s a look:

1. Gerard Butler

Gerard Butler returned to his homeland of Scotland to film the 2018 mystery-thriller The Vanishing. During an appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan he talked about prepping for trip’s home, saying, “They like to hear a thick Scottish accent. So, whenever I go back, I literally have to practice on the plane.” The Vanishing is based on the 1900 Flannan Isles mystery, when three lighthouse keepers went missing, played by Butler, Peter Mullan and Connor Swindells. Do you think he practiced enough?

2. Colin Farrell

Colin Farrell, who is from Castlerock, Ireland, retained his native accent for the 2015 dark comedy The Lobster, also starring Anglo favorites Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz. The quirky movie with a message, revolves around single people who are turned into an animal of their choice if not married by a certain time. In 2010, Farrell talked about growing up watching American TV, which had an impact on his speech, saying, “I spent most of my childhood watching T.J. Hooker and CHiPS, so I was more familiar with an American accent than an Irish one.” Does he have to practice, too? We’re seeing a pattern here…

3. Ruth Jones

Ruth Jones, who is a native of Wales, co-created and starred in the Welsh-English hybrid comedy Gavin and Stacey. Jones wasn’t the only Welsh actor on-set, joined by Joanna Page and Rob Brydon. The story revolves around a young couple who get to know each other by phone and then meet-up in real life, bringing their friends and family along for the ride. Jones not only dons her Welsh accent proudly, but is also working to learn the traditional Welsh language for the forthcoming series Iaith ar Daith (Welsh Road Trip). She talked about her progress with WalesOnline.com, saying, “I’ve been trying to keep learning it ever since school but in quite an unofficial way. There are certain phrases which I love! Bach yn arafach (a little slower) is fantastic, I think that would make a good song.”

4. John Hannah 

1998’s Sliding Doors starred Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah. Paltrow put on an English accent and did a fairly good job of it. Hannah used a Scottish accent, doing a great job of it… because he is Scottish. The story kicks off with Paltrow’s character just missing her train as the doors slide shut. The movie carries on, unfolding what comes next. But, then we take a step back and there’s a second storyline, examining what would’ve happened if she did indeed get that train. That 10-minute time frame can be crucial, causing a chain reaction of events.

5. David Tennant

Doctor Who star David Tennant recently returned to Scotland for the new series Deadwater Fell. The four-part series revolves around a seemingly happy family, living in the fictional Scottish town of Kirkdarroch. Tennant takes on the character of the local general practitioner, Tom Kendrick. He’s married, has three children and all seems the norm. That all changes when there’s a terrible tragedy and his wife and children are trapped and killed in a house fire. While Tennant’s character might turn out to be a baddie, we do love hearing him talk.

6. Kelly Macdonald

Kelly Macdonald stars in the Scotland-based series The Victim. She takes on the role of a grieving mother, whose young son is killed. When she thinks she figures out who the murderer is, she publicly shames him, which results in him being brutally beaten. But, was she right? She is the one now being investigated. And, you may remember Macdonald from 1996’s Trainspotting, practically a love letter to Scotland, playing the schoolgirl opposite Ewan McGregor‘s Renton.

7. Colin Firth

Colin Firth mastered the accent of 19th century British upperclass in the 1995 miniseries Pride and Prejudice, where he played Mr. Darcy. But in 2001, we got to hear him as a modern-day Londoner in Bridget Jones’s Diary, which was inspired by the Jane Austen character Mr. Darcy. Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) is a 30-something singleton, unlucky in love. But then she finds herself with two suitors, the flirtatious Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and the buttoned-up Marc Darcy (Firth). Firth is originally from Surrey, England, which is about an hour outside of London.

8. James Nesbitt 

James Nesbitt made his breakout with the 1990s comedy Cold Feet. When auditioning for the role, he realized his Northern Irish accent acted as a strength, helping him stand out from the crowd. He held onto the thick brogue when portraying the character Adam Williams. He went on to star in the 2002 movie Bloody Sunday, a biopic about the 1965 Civil Rights march in Derry, Ireland. In 2016 he talked to the Irish News, saying, “My accent is so important to me. It is a part of who I am. I am proud of being Irish, I am proud of being from NI.”

9. Maggie Smith 

Dame Maggie Smith is probably best known these days as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, from the Downton Abbey series. With DA set in the post-Edwardian era, it’s interesting to see Smith change things up and go more modern. In 2015, she starred in The Lady in a Van, which is based on the true story of Mary Shepherd. Like the title suggests, Shepherd lived in a van, which she parked in neighborly Alan Bennett‘s driveway for 15 years. Bennett wrote a 1999 play about their story, also starring Smith in the stage production. Smith hails from Ilford, London.

10. Idris Elba

American viewers got to know Idris Elba as Russell “Stringer” Bell in the crime drama The Wire (2002-2004), based in Baltimore, Maryland. Elba downplayed his Britishness when auditioning, as he thought it might hinder his chances of being considered. While his being a Londoner did come up, he still landed the role because he was just that good. In 2010, he took on the title role in BBC America’s Luther, playing a troubled detective. Set in London, he was back on his home turf. Elba is originally from Hackney, London, and has a good handle on British slang. 

Do you have a favorite accent coming out of the U.K.? 

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Filed Under: accents
By Brigid Brown