Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #23: 13 actors/actresses whose nationalities may (or may not) surprise you

Thirteen actors/actresses famous for playing characters outside their own nationality.

A common strength of many stage and screen performers is the ability to pull off an accent. Sometimes they do it so well and so often that we forget that it isn't their natural talking voice. Below are 13 actors/actresses
whose nationalities may (or may not) surprise you. You can click on their name to check out their profile.

1. Mark Addy- Best known as Chicagoan Bill Miller on the sitcom "Still Standing", Addy was born in York, England. When watching "Still Standing", you can sometimes detect that English accent trying to seep out.

2. Paul Benedict- The actor, who played British neighbor Harry Bentley on the long-running series "The Jeffersons", isn't from England at all... he was born in Silver City, New Mexico.

3. Olivia d'Abo- Best known as Kevin Arnold's hippie-chick sister Karen on "The Wonder Years", d'Abo would probably prefer tea and crumpets instead of tofu and bean sprouts. She was born in Paddington, an area near the city of London, England.

4. Anna Friel- Currently starring as All-American girl Charlotte "Chuck" Charles in my favorite new series (the ABC fantasy "Pushing Daisies"), Friel was born in Lancashire, England. To hear her natural accent (from a UK commercial for Pantene), you can click here.

5. Rachel Griffiths- Unless you've seen her in movies such as "Muriel's Wedding", it's easy to forget that Griffiths (famous for her American roles in the series "Six Feet Under" and "Brothers and Sisters") is from Melbourne, Australia.

6. Marianne Jean-Baptiste- Currently starring as American FBI agent Vivian Johnson on the CBS drama "Without A Trace", Jean-Baptiste (who received an Oscar nomination for her role in the British film "Secrets and Lies") was born and raised in London, England.

7. Hugh Laurie- Because the American accent he uses as the title character on "House, M.D." is flawless, some might forget that Laurie (who also starred in several UK productions) is from Oxford, England.

8. Melanie Lynskey- Best known as Rose, the helium voiced sweet-natured stalker on the CBS sitcom "Two and A Half Men", Lynskey was born and raised in New Zealand. Lynskey once recounted Charlie Sheen's reaction when he heard her talk in her natural accent for the first time: "He turned around and said, "What's this, uh, voice? What are you doing?" I said, "I'm just talking." Then he said, "Hmmm. Is that some kind of actor-y thing?"

9. John Mahoney- The actor, who for 11 seasons played Martin Crane on the Emmy-winning sitcom "Frasier", was born in Blackpool, Lancashire, England. He lost his British accent after joining the U.S. Army in the late 1950s.

10. Poppy Montgomery- Along with Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Montgomery also plays an American F.B.I. agent on "Without A Trace". Montgomery was born and raised in Sydney Australia.

11. Michelle Ryan- Currently starring as Jamie Sommers in the NBC remake "Bionic Woman", Ryan was born in Middlesex, England. If you want to hear what she really sounds like, click here. She is the actress with her back to the camera at the beginning of the clip.

12. Nicolette Sheridan- I had completely forgotten that Sheridan (best known for her roles in "Knots Landing" and "Desperate Housewives") is actually from England. When she moved to America at the age of 10, she was teased by classmates because of her British accent (they called her "English Muffin"). She responded by calling them "American Cheese".

13. Alan Young- The TV icon (he's best known for playing Wilbur Post on "Mister Ed") was born Angus Young in North Shields, Tyne-and-Wear, England.

Since my TV/movie soundtrack-related TT for last week was later than normal, this week you can get two for the price of one. In case you missed last week's, you can check it out by clicking the following link:

TT #22

Leave your link in comments so that others can visit you.

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Holly Smith said...

ooh I like this one. I did know about Rachel Griffiths, and the guy from "Still Standing." But I was really surprised by Chuck from Pushing Daisies. Did you know that they guy that plays Higgins on Magnum PI is really a Texan? We were really surprised by that. Great list!

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

I haven't a clue who any of these folks are. See what happens when you quit watching television and movies... Have a great TT. :)

Barbara (aka Layla) said...

Its always so weird to hear an actor (e.g. Hugh Laurie) speaking in their real voice when you are so used to their TV voice! Great talent to imitate an accent to the point where its shocking to find out they are not natural. Fun post as always Maclolm!

ellen b. said...

Love those facts and I'm always amazed at how well Hugh Laurie pulls off being American...

pjazzypar said...

I knew about numbers 1, 3, 6, 7, and 11. I watch the "Bionic Woman" and in one episode she had to go to Oxford and affect an English accent. Around that time I read that she was actually from England and in the episode she was speaking as she normally does. Some people are better at taking on an accent, for instance, Hugh Laurie is impeccable. However Emma Thompson in "Primary Colors" was horrible in my opinion. She was suppose to be the wife of a presidential candidate yet she kept drifting back to the way she normally speaks. Happy TT.

Greatfullivin said...

Very Interesting list. I love Hugh Laurie and I am amazed at how well he does the American acent. I sometimes watch Without A Trace and never would have guessed Marianne Jean-Baptist or Poppy Montgomery were not from the US. Thanks for the info and Happy TT

SJ Reidhead said...

The Hugh Laurie one always gets me. He sounds much better as an American!

The Pink Flamingo

Nicholas said...

I think Mark Addy was one of the Yorkshiremen revealing everything in The Full Monty.

I only had to listen to Paul Benedict for about 3 seconds to realize he wasn't a Brit. Nothing like!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Accents (or the lack of one) can be hard to master. You've got a great list of masters.

Another great one, Malcolm!!

Morgan Leigh said...

Thanks for visiting my sight. :) I guess I did overexaggerate Patrick Swayze's age. LOL.

:) Happy TT!

Holly said...

My favorite actor right now (Alex O'Loughlin) is from Australia and has to do an American accent for Moonlight.

Happy TT-13 and thanks for stopping by my blog!



Open Grove Claudia said...

I was surprised to learn that Sendhil Ramamurthy was actually American. He has such a London accent. He worked in England but spent most of his life here.

Fun list! damn brits always pretending to be something they aren't! ;)

The Gal Herself said...

Re: #3 -- And here I thought her British accent on L&O: Criminal Intent was studied! I got it bass ackwards! (Thanks for visiting my blog)

Malcolm: said...

Holly Smith: I forgot about John Hillerman (Higgins) being from TX. He would have been a good one to include on the list.

Sandee: Wow, I see exactly what happens when one gives up TV and movies. Although you're probably better off for giving them up... I can't do it, I just can't! :-)

Barbara: The first time I ever heard Hugh Laurie use his natural accent was in a romantic comedy he did with Joely Richardson called "Maybe Baby". It would be cool to hear Hugh switch back and forth between accents in the same sentence.

Ellen B: While watching football on FOX on Sundays, I see a lot of commercials for "House". I am usually grossed out by whatever medical calamity House has to face and amazed at Hugh's mastery of an American accent.

Pjazzy: I missed that "Bionic Woman" ep where she went to Oxford... damnit! I am surprised to hear about Emma Thompson's struggles.

Greatfullivin: Although I have heard Marianne's natural voice, I can't say the same about Poppy. The other "Without A Trace" actor who fakes an American accent is Anthony La Paglia. He is also from Down Under.

SJ: I wonder if people see Hugh in projects such as the Blackadder series and think that he's faking his British accent.

Nicholas: You are right! Mark Addy was one of the Full Monty guys. I just looked it up on

I'm not nearly as good as you at detecting fake accents. Paul Benedict (Mr. Bentley) had me fooled for years!

Susan: You are right about mastering accents. The worst I ever heard was Keanu Reeves in "The Devil's Advocate" when he tried to do a Southern accent, but kept slipping into his normal voice.

Morgan Leigh: You are quite welcome. Well, you didn't exaggerate Patrick's age too much. :-)

Holly: I think I read about Alex when I was doing research for this TT. Because of the good things I've heard, maybe I'll give "Moonlight" a try.

Open Grove Claudia: The Brit performers have realized that there is gold in them there Hollywood Hills.

The Gal Herself: I knew that Olivia had joined L&O: CI, but haven't seen her on it though. I assumed she was doing an American accent.

WorksForMom said...

You always have the best lists Malcom (and polls I might add - I voted for Screech). Great list!

Lori said...

What great trivia...I love stuff like this and yes, there were some surprises. Happy TT and thanks for stopping by:)

Robin said...

I never would have guessed that about Hugh Laurie and Rachel Griffiths. They're flawless alright.

busy91 said...

I'm sure I can go over to England and blend in fairly well with my accent. I'm trying to place Rachel Griffiths in 6 feet, was she Brenda??

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Olivia d'Abo is also the daughter of Mike d'Abo who was the vocalist of Manfred Mann for a time and wrote Handbags and Gladrags...she also dated Julian Lennon for a time :)

Sharon said...

I had no clue so many were from the UK. I've recently gotten into Without a Trace-I was wondering about Poppy Montgomery. Is that her real name, btw? And I love Vivian's character.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Have a great day!

X. Dell said...

Interesting list. Seems some Europeans can outAmerican Americans.

Next thing you'll tell me is that Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't a native Californian.

The Mocha Mom said...

I would have never guessed # 4 or 12, I too also love the new ABC sitcom, it is unrealistic, my whole family enjoys the show, maybe we like it because it is so different than all the other crap on TV. Thanks for sharing, I loved this list!! I am up too.

Malcolm: said...

Works for Mom: Thanks! I am glad to hear that you enjoy my TT lists and my weekly polls. As of noon on 12/29, Scrappy Doo and Fran Fine are tied in the "Most Annoying TV Character" poll.

Lori: One of the enjoyable things about the Thursday Thirteens that I put together is also learn things I didn't know or am reminded about stuff I had forgotten. Although I remember reading that John Mahoney was from the UK, I didn't know how or when he lost his accent.

Robin: Since I haven't seen "Muriel's Wedding" in years, I can't even remember how Rachel Griffiths' voice really sounds.

Busy91: You are correct. Rachel did play Brenda on "Six Feet Under".

Mistress of the D: When I was compiling this list earlier in the week, I was getting info on Olivia d'Abo. I wondered to myself, "Isn't she the daughter of Mike d'Abo of Manfred Mann?" Yet another one of those tidbits that I heard years ago, but had forgotten.

Sharon: I need to start watching "Without A Trace" in reruns on TNT because I have heard nothing but good things about it.

According to, Poppy's full name is:

Poppy Petal Emma Elizabeth Deveraux Donahue

Now that's a mouthful!

X. Dell: I was going to hold off on telling you that Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't a native Californian. Oh well, Arnie's secret is out now.

Mocha Mom: It's nice to meet another fan of "Pushing Daisies". I was telling some other fans/bloggers that it's a show that always puts a smile on my face. As do you, I also like it because there isn't anything like it on TV right now.

Chris said...

Great list Malcom, thanks for stopping by my TT.

amanda rae said...

i didn't know nicholette sheridan was from england!

happy tt!!


Denise Patrick said...

Very talented people on your list. I know who a few of them are, but most of them are beyond me.

Happy TT!

Xakara said...

This is a great list. I have the same "thing" for accents that a lot of women do so it's always a lovely surprise to hear an actor speak in their normal voice. Thanks for giving me a peek at so many. :)

Happy TT


Janet said...

Sometimes, and especially in Hugh Laurie's case, I think I'd like some of the characters more if they used their regular English accent!

My regular blog's not feeling well, so I'm posting the T13 on my photo blog, fondofphotography.

kara_k. said...

I thoroughly loved this posting and your blog in general. You seem like such an interesting guy with a wealth of knowledge.

This was such an interesting topic to post your Thursday Thirteen about. I feel so much better informed. With the exception of Hugh Laurie I don't really think I knew any of these actors weren't using their native accents. Thanks for giving me something to ponder on :) Thank you also for commenting on my TT post. I hope you have a great week!

Cindy Swanson said...

It has always amazed me how actors can lose all trace of their native accent! Isn't Christian Bale British as well? You certainly can't tell by his accent...

Interesting and informative list as always, Malcolm...

Malcolm: said...

Chris: Thanks for returning the favor and stopping by. I will checking your blog out again in the near future.

Amanda Rae: When I rediscovered that Nicolette was from England, I seem to recall that she used her natural accent when she first joined "Knots Landing". I think I might be imagining things.

Denise: Even though you aren't a TV watcher, I figured that you would know a few of the people on the list. By the way, congrats on being one of the featured TT'ers.

Xakara: I can't speak for other men, but I find that a female British/Aussie accent can be sexy. I wonder do people in other countries find our American accents a turn on.

Janet: You brought up an interesting theory. I wonder if viewers would like House more or less if Hugh Laurie used his natural accent.

Kara: In regards to your comments about this post and my blog in general... go on. No, I mean go on and stroke my ego some more, lol.

Seriously, your kind words are very appreciative. It's positive feedback like that which makes blogging worthwhile for me.

Cindy: I forgot all about Christian Bale. You are right, he is British. The only movie I have seen him in was the remake of "Shaft". From what I remember, his British accent wasn't detectable at all.

damozel said...

I always love coming here. Wil-burrr was English? And the girl on "The Wonder Years"? And...and "Edie"?

I knew about Rachel Griffiths because she was amazing in "Muriel's Wedding." And I love Hugh Laurie--who started out life as a comedian.

Tink said...

I don't know all of these people, but I knew the nationality of the ones I do know. :-)
Thanks for visiting my magic quotes TT!

Malcolm: said...

Damozel: Thanks for the kind words. I need to see "Muriel's Wedding" again because it's been years. I just watched a "Blackadder" clip feat. Hugh Laurie on You Tube. He's pretty funny!

Tink: You are quite welcome. Thanks for returning the favor.

Cindy Swanson said...

Malcolm, you need to check out a few more Christian Bale movies! Seeing him in "Batman," "The Prestige," and "3:10 to Yuma" has made a fan out of me.

He also bears a slight resemblance to my brother.

karen said...

fun list! i love finding out the origins of actors. did you know kevin mckidd on "journeyman" is scottish?

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