Adams's Accents

Kirk Ellis, one of John Adams's writers is jumping into TNR's exchange on the series, and provides some insight into the provenance of the accents on display in the series:

Steve, you also inquire as to origins of the "hybrid accents" we use in the series. From the beginning, we wanted to emphasize that independence was a battle between British Americans and their brethren in England, not, as so often depicted, a conflict that pitted Crown officers with plumy Oxonian accents against patriots with full-blown American dialects. All our research pointed to the fact that, in written and spoken speech, America was much closer to the mother country than had been acknowledged in past dramatizations.



He says they provided capsule biographies of the different characters to the series' dialogue coach to help them come up with something appropriate, sometimes based on the insight "that one's residence in America frequently depended on one's point of origin in England. Virginia, for instance, was largely settled by residents of East Anglia--in terms of dialect and accent a very distinctive region."

Ellis' participation in this, along with some other similar examples, does raise some questions about the changing nature of the critical enterprise in the internet era. My sense is that, traditionally, creators have tended to shy away from direct intervention into critical debates about their work. But something about the seemingly informal nature of internet commentary seems to have subverted that rule, so you're seeing much more of this kind of intervention. It has, I think, the potential for a distorting impact on our understanding of things since, at the end of the day, it's really not the creator's role to offer authoritative accounts of what a given work "really" was or is.