Is it time for American actors to take a hard look in the mirror? Earlier this year Michael Douglas mused darkly to a magazine interviewer, “I think we have a little crisis going on amongst our young actors at this point,” and Spike Lee, commenting on the “invasion” of black British actors, had some pithy observations on the subject, too: “You want talented people,” he said, and British actors’ “training is very proper, whereas some of these other brothers and sisters, you know, they come in here, and they don’t got that training.” Douglas and Lee, just like the rest of us who go to the movies, are a tad puzzled about why so many good American roles have been going to English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Australian, and Canadian actors. The phenomenon may have reached its unignorable peak in last year’s docudrama Selma: the parts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Governor George Wallace, and President Lyndon B. Johnson were all played by Brits.
Film audiences, of course, have long since accustomed themselves to seeing nonnative speakers of American—Daniel Day-Lewis, Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Liam Neeson, Clive Owen, and their international ilk—confidently impersonating Yanks on the silver screen. Now the migrant thespians are starting to dominate stateside TV, too. On any given night of channel surfing or Netflix browsing in the past few seasons, you’re likely to have happened upon an English actor or two playing a 100 percent born-and-bred American: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, and Lennie James on The Walking Dead, Hugh Dancy on Hannibal, Charlie Cox on Daredevil, Freddie Highmore and Olivia Cooke on Bates Motel, Damian Lewis and Rupert Friend on Homeland, Eddie Marsan on Ray Donovan, Janet McTeer on Battle Creek, Dominic West and Ruth Wilson on The Affair, or Hugh Laurie on House. You might also have come across the odd Welshman (Michael Sheen on Masters of Sex), Scot (Alan Cumming on The Good Wife), Irishman (Colin Farrell on True Detective), Canadian (Taylor Kitsch on Friday Night Lights), or Australian (Robert Taylor on Longmire), each of them with an eerily undetectable accent. Crisis or not, this is getting embarrassing.