30 Actors You Forgot Were British

When an American actor plays a Brit, there's usually a fair amount of grumbling, followed by a whole lot of fanfare if he or she manages to handle the accent without pulling a Dick Van Dyke. But, when a British actor plays a Yank, it's likely no one even notices. That is until he or she finally sits down for an interview and you realize, wait, you mean that Baltimore drug lord/California motorcycle gang leader/Southern sheriff actually sounds like someone who should be dusting crockery on Downton Abbey?
Believe it. Chances are, one of your favorite shows or films feature someone who is playing American while actually being British. Some have been using so many different accents over the years that nobody can remember where they hail from. Some have found fame playing iconic American characters. And, all of them have fooled us at one point or another with their mad verbal skills.
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Click through to see a roundup of actors from the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) who play American all the time. We would have included Benedict Cumberbatch for his grasp of the Southern dialect, but let's face it: When a dude's named Benedict Cumberbatch, you're not likely to forget that he's British. Read on for more.


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Photo: Courtesy FX.
Charlie Hunnam

If the Sons of Anarchy star didn't show his British roots when saying the words "Tara," "mother," and "doctor" (often in the same sentence), you might actually believe he hailed from California like SAMCRO president, Jax Teller.
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Photo: Courtesy 20th Century Fox.
Rosamund Pike

This Londoner did the requisite period piece (Pride & Prejudice) and Bond girl (Die Another Day) stints before this year's breakout role as all-American Amy in Gone Girl.
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Photo: Courtesy HBO.
Idris Elba

To Brits, he's DCI John Luther. To everyone else, he'll always be Stringer Bell. In real life, he's got a thick East London accent The Wire fans still can't wrap their heads around.
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Photo: Courtesy FX.
Matthew Rhys

He plays a Russian posing as an American on The Americans. Off-screen, he's a Welsh actor posing as a Russian...oh, you get the idea.
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Photo: Courtesy MGM.
Cary Grant

Little Archibald Leach spent his formative years in Bristol, England. After moving to the States as a teen, he adopted a transatlantic accent that left many clueless as to his exact origins.
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Photo: Courtesy AMC.
Andrew Lincoln

Remember the good ol' days when Lincoln was trying to steal his best mate's wife with cue cards in Love Actually? The Englishman isn't the only faux Yank on The Walking Dead, either. Maggie and Morgan are also real-life Brits, and The Governor was hiding more than just a zombie child during his stretch on the show.
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Photo: Courtesy 20th Century Fox.
Gillian Anderson

You already knew Scully was cool, but this might blow your mind. Anderson, who was born in Chicago and raised partly in London, is bidialectal. Her accent transitions from American to English depending on where she's based.
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Photo: Courtesy Lions Gate Films.
Christian Bale

He's done Bateman, he's done Batman, and he was last seen sporting a thick Jersey accent. Easy to forget he's an Englishman, right?
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Photo: Courtesy MGM.
Delroy Lindo

This veteran actor was born and raised in London before later moving to Canada and the U.S.
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Photo: Courtesy MGM.
Rebecca Hall

She's played Americans in films like Vicky Cristina Barcelona and The Town, but Hall is actually a Cambridge dropout with a natural English accent. Her mother is American, so she holds dual citizenship.
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Photo: Courtesy CBS.
Archie Panjabi

Anyone else remember The Good Wife star and London native as the spoiled big sister in Bend It Like Beckham? Fun fact: Costars Alan Cumming and Matthew Goode are also from the U.K.
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Photo: Courtesy Warner Bros.
Tom Hardy

It's hard enough to make out what Bane is saying, let alone try to suss out that he's from the suburbs of London.
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Photo: Courtesy HBO.
Kim Cattrall

Let's go halfsies on this one. The artist formerly known as Samantha Jones was born in Liverpool to English parents, then moved to Canada. Cattrall returned to England as a young student before heading back to North America in her teens.
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Photo: Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Chiwetel Ejiofor

This London native even has a O.B.E. from the Queen! If you want your mind blow, try watching 12 Years A Slave followed immediately by Kinky Boots.
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Photo: Courtesy United Artists.
Charlie Chaplin

That's Sir Charles to you. The screen icon was born and raised in London.
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Photo: Courtesy Paramount Pictures.
Hayley Atwell

You might recognize Agent Peggy Carter from British period pieces like Brideshead Revisited and The Duchess.
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Photo: 20th Television.
Hugh Laurie

Be honest. How far did your jaw drop when you heard Dr. House speak with his real English accent for the first time?
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Photo: Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics.
Christopher Guest

Though born in New York City, the English-American actor and director holds a British peerage. Yep, the guy from This Is Spinal Tap is a "lord."
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Photo: Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.
Carey Mulligan

Drive, Shame, The Great Gatsby...when's the last time you heard this gal use her English accent?
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Photo: Courtesy Showtime.
Damian Lewis and everyone else on Homeland

Brody? English. Estes? English. Quinn? English. Mira? English.
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Photo: Courtesy AMC.
Laura Fraser

Just one more of Lydia's secrets on Breaking Bad: She's totally Scottish.
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Photo: Courtesy ABC.
Josh Bowman

We can't wait for the Revenge plotline where everyone discovers Daniel Grayson is a Brit who used to date Amy Winehouse.
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Photo: Courtesy 20th Television.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw

After years of faking an American accent on TV, the English actress finally broke out with this year's Belle.
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Photo: Courtesy NBC.
Hugh Dancy

Mr. Claire Danes happens to be an Oxford grad from across the pond. You'd never guess Hannibal's Will Graham was a Englishman, would you?
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Photo: Courtesy HBO.
Dominic West

Yep. Stringer Bell and McNulty are both Brits. Aw. We've ruined The Wire for you, haven't we?
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Photo: Courtesy HBO.
Jack Huston

We're not afraid to say it: This Brit deserved an Emmy for his portrayal of disfigured, gruff-talking former soldier (American!) Richard Harrow on Boardwalk Empire. P.S. Al Capone was also played by an Englishman, actor Stephen Graham.
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Photo: Courtesy Warner Bros. Television.
Mischa Barton

The O.C.? Nope. This gal is English and Irish. The London-born actress even had a small role in Notting Hill as a child.
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Photo: Courtesy Columbia Pictures.
Alfred Molina

Part Italian. Part Spanish. Born and raised in London. Master of countless accents. We bow down.
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Photo: Courtesy HBO.
Stephen Moyer

True Blood's over-the-top Southern accents are a lot more forgivable once you learn that most of the cast, like Moyer's Bill, is from countries far, far away.
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Photo: Courtesy Showtime.
Michael Sheen

Masters is a master at making us forget he's a Welshman. We can only imagine the sheep jokes girlfriend Sarah Silverman has thrown his way.
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