Fake American

Sir Michael Caine of... Texas

"Don't you hate it when you find out some really cool actor you like is actually Canadian?"

The United States has the largest natively-English-speaking population of any country on earth (about 300 million), and due to the tremendous global influence of American-produced media, most non-Americans are familiar with the country's dialects and accents, and assume them easy to imitate. Thus it's not uncommon for any actor to be asked to sound like an American for a part.

Fake Americans are usually Canadians, Brits, Australians, or Irish (although New Zealanders and even South Africans have been known to fake American). This is usually done for biographical reasons, to allow for a familial relationship with another character with an American accent, or to portray a character as stereotypically American.

According to a documentary, in 2008 one-third of all piloted American TV series had British people in a starring or main supporting role, so this is expanding almost beyond the boundaries of trope. There are honestly so many actors playing fake Americans in games, TV shows, and movies as of late, most people that aren't familiar with many of the actors from across the pond assume they're American.

Britons who essay an American accent will usually opt to make the accent "colorful", and preferably Eastern. Expect to hear something along the lines of a) "salty" New Englander; b) Connecticut "blue-blood"; c) New Yorker, typically of the "Brooklyn" variety; or d) Southern, usually something from Georgia or the Carolinas but occasionally Appalachian, Ozark, or even Texan. This is because the Eastern accents share many phonetic quirks with British dialects, such as the broadening of vowels or the dropping of "r's." It is rare to hear one of these actors attempt, say, a California accent - but it is not unheard of. In those cases, overcorrection of final "r"s is a common tell ("picture" pronounced "pickshurr", say).

Note that this trope does not apply to non-American actors who are not trying to disguise their accent or origin. Nor should it apply to foreign-born actors raised in America such as Natalie Portman or Mila Kunis, as long as they don't have to fake an accent. America is a nation of immigrants after all, and it isn't all that unusual to meet people who were born or raised overseas, or natural-born Americans who carry an accent from growing up in an ethnic neighborhood. Expect such situations to be Lampshaded, however, especially if the actor in question has a relatively heavy accent, like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Note also that the majority of Canada is within the USA's dialect continuum, thus most Canadian actors have absolutely no difficulty faking being a generic American (it's when the accent required isn't a generic one that this comes into play).

A version of Fake Nationality, along with Fake Brit and Fake Irish. If the character is called upon to "fake" the accent that's really theirs, it's a case of Lampshade Hanging, of the sub-type How's Your British Accent?. Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping is quite common, and a few careless examples end up Not Even Bothering with the Accent.

This can also be done within the United States, if an American is expected to speak with a very distinctive accent other than their own, e.g. actors with "neutral" accents doing a Minnesota or Georgia accent.

Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Patlabor's Kanuka Clancy is supposed to be a NYC cop of Hawaiian descent, but her voice actor's awkward, heavily accented English says otherwise.
  • Revy in Black Lagoon a Chinese-American, born in New York. In the episodes set in Japan, she gets a few lines in thickly-accented and stilted English, laden with profanity.note 
  • The English Dub for Mad Bull 34 was done by a British company, thus the voice actors speak in really cheesy (and profanity-laden) New Yorker accents.
  • Deliberately invoked in the dub for Video Girl Ai, which was recorded by The Ocean Group in Vancover. An omake for one episode in the original Japanese had the seiyuu rerecord a scene using thick Osaka accents. The dub adapted this to the voice actors acting like they were from the Deep South. They're... not that good at it.

    Films — Animation 

    Literature 
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Australian Emily Browning in The Film of the Book.
  • Australian Nick Cave wrote And the Ass Saw the Angel, really demonstrating his fascination with the American south, going as far as to write, at least partially, in American south phonetics.
  • Hugh Laurie also wrote a novel called The Gun Seller, in which certain of the American characters speak in a distinctly 'American' way, essentially by cursing excessively. Others talk completely normally. It's all based on whether or not we're meant to like them.
    • Eddie Izzard's American imitation also ends up like this. Americans apparently talk very loudly and swear every other word.
      • And are also Texan. ("Talk Bri'ish t' mah kidz!")
      • In the comicbook Preacher, an Irish vampire on one occasion impersonates his Texan friend, le stories.
      • There are also a disproportionate number of indeterminate Southerners. Apparently a really broad Texa Georgiana accent is easier than New England or Midwestern speech.
  • In the Audio Adaptation version of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, Stephen Briggs reads Maurice's lines in a pseudo-American accent, making him sound even more like a used car salesman.

    Music 
  • David Sylvian spoke with a very bad attempt at an American accent in the late 90s to early 2000s, as he was living in the US and apparently his young child couldn't understand him. When he left his wife and returned to the UK, he returned to an English accent. His English accent has also gradually changed from lower class to upper-middle class over the years, probably due to this being easier to understand for the many Japanese people he has worked with.
  • Look at the early Leningrad Cowboys: Finns who pretended to be Russians who, in turn, claimed to be Americans — with a thick fake Russian accent and hints of their native Finnish accent no less.
  • During the early years of The British Invasion, British rock stars could be very clumsy in imitating American accents, and The Beatles were no exception. John Lennon, for one, seemed to believe that Americans always pronounce the letter a very short and forward in the mouth, even when this is incorrect: "I'm in the mood to take a ma'am-bo."
  • The vocalists of Alabama 3 are white Brits who do reasonably good impressions of southern African-American accents; on the album version of the The Sopranos theme "Woke Up This Morning", if it wasn't for some distinctly British pronunciations in the opening monologue, you'd never notice.
  • Iggy Azalea's dirty South accent in her rapping is apparently pretty good, but it's also extremely divisive among hip-hop fans. Her real accent is rural Australian.

    Music Videos 
  • In the music video for Genesis' Jesus He Knows Me, Phil Collins portrays an unscrupulous televangelist, complete with the American dialect. It is also a nod to his guest role as a televangelist in Miami Vice.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • Val Venis, WWE's wrestling porn star, was billed from Las Vegas, although Sean Morley, the real guy, is from Markham, Ontario, Canada.
  • Edge is also Canadian (and Sean Morley's ex-brother-in-law, for that matter), but always tried to do an American accent when playing a heel. As a face, he generally spoke in his native accent.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 
  • Almost all of (English) LittleKuriboh's voices – except for Bakura – in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series. Justified by L.K. trying to sound something like the characters he's parodying, although inverted with Yami as that character sounds more British with each episode, to the point that he stopped sounding like Dan Green years ago.
    • Similarly, MasakoX (English) in Naruto The Abridged Series. Masako also plays a fake Canadian (Rock Lee, eh?).
    • Bandit Keith, in... Canada.
  • Park Bench
  • In Philthon Jones, this was attempted a couple of times, in "The Murder of Lord Avocado" and "The Meeting".
  • Jessica Lee Rose of lonelygirl15 adopted an American accent for the character Bree. Occasional lapses into her New Zealand accent prompted early speculation on whether or not the blog was a hoax.
    • Partially subverted: Jessica Rose was born in the USA (Salisbury, Maryland) but moved to New Zealand at age 8.

    Western Animation 
  • A LOT of "American" cartoons over the years have had the voice recording done in Canada (originally Toronto, nowadays Vancouver) due to lower costs. Since Vancouver in particular is so close to the American border, there is little to no difference accent-wise between a Vancouverite and, say, someone from Seattle (the cities are less than 150 miles apart). Given how ubiquitous this is in animation, if we tried to list every single instance of Canadians voicing American cartoon characters, we'd be here all day.

    This can still come into play, however, when a Canadian voice actor is asked to play an American character from a specific region, like the South.
  • Anthony LaPaglia also did the voice of a Noo Yawk/Noo Joisey mafia-type skua in Happy Feet; Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman put on Southern accents as Elvis Memphis and Marilyn Monroe Norma Jean.
  • Rattrap in Transformers: Beast Wars has an American accent but an Australian voice actor (Scott McNeil) who lives in Canada.
  • English actor Phil Hayes originally voiced Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog's Scratch with a New York-style accent. In fact, every major character in the series (except for Sonic) has a Canadian or British actor.
    • Which makes sense since the series was recorded in Vancouver (except for Jaleel White, who is an American based in LA).
    • In fact, the only actor in the show besides White who doesn't fit this is the late Long John Baldry, who never made any attempt to hide his English accent when playing Robotnik.
  • Alan Rickman guest stars on an episode of King of the Hill, playing the part of the "king" of the local Renaissance Faire, of course using his own English accent. At the end of the episode he drops that to reveal his "real" voice, which is a terrible attempt at a Texas accent.
  • The X-Men have always been explicitly based in New York (just like the rest of the Marvel Universe). But the earliest animated adaptations were recorded in Canada.
    • In the 1990s X-Men, most American characters – such as Cyclops, Jean Grey, or Jubilee – are voiced by Canadian actors. Professor X is voiced by an Englishman, and Rogue (who is meant to be from Louisiana) is voiced by Lenore Zann, an Australian raised in Canada who spent time in LA before moving back to Canada.
    • This is also true for the 2000's-era X-Men: Evolution, which was also recorded in Vancouver. There, Rogue is played by Canadian Meghan Black and Professor Xavier again sounds English (clearly modelled after the very English Patrick Stewart).
  • Tara Strong, who is Canadian by birth but lives in L.A., in all kinds of roles both female and male, such as Batgirl in Gotham Knights, Bubbles in The Powerpuff Girls, Raven in Teen Titans, both Timmy Turner and Poof in The Fairly OddParents, Ben Tennyson in Ben 10, and both Princess Clara and Toot Blaustein in Drawn Together.
  • As opposed to his awful accent in Black Hawk Down, Jason Isaacs does a pretty convincing American accent as Admiral Zhao. For a character with a Chinese name from a Japanese influenced part of a fantasy world where America doesn't exist. Go figure.
  • Parodied on The Simpsons episode "Burns' Heir"note  where Mr. Burns hires fake Americans to play the Simpsons family and Burns got the famously Cockney Michael Caine (voiced by Dan Castallaneta) to play Homer (though that's more of a joke on Caine taking on roles just to get paid) while Lisa is voiced by a bald male midget from Estonia (and is the same one that would later be seen on the episode "Radioactive Man" as Milhouse's stunt double).
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball, with the exception of the Watterson kids and some characters played by Sandra Dickinsonnote  and Dan Russell (American voice actors currently living in London), every character on the show is played by a British actor doing an American accent.
  • In Spider-Man (1967), most of the American characters were voiced by Canadian actors.
  • In the late 1940s, Walt Disney, too busy to voice Mickey Mouse anymore, handed the duties of voicing the character to the Disney Studios' resident sound effects man James MacDonald, who was born in Scotland but moved to America when he was only six months old.
    • Along the same lines, in the newest Mickey Mouse series of 2013, Mickey is voiced by Canadian-born Chris Diamantopoulos, who was given the role after (American) Wayne Allwine died in 2009.

    Real Life 
  • Most people outside of North America can't tell the difference between American and Canadian accents anyway. Also, Canada and the United States form a single dialect continuum, with areas near either side of the border sounding almost indistinguishable from each other (except around the Windsor-Detroit area where the effects of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift stop sharply at the Canada-US border, if you pay attention, you can hear the different accents of the Canadian versus the American customs agents). Besides, if we were to list every Canadian who's played an American on TV or in film we'd be here forever.
    • Canadians from Ontario, British Columbia, the Prairie Provinces, and Anglophone Quebecers already sound reasonably American. That said, Canadian drama schools do spent quite a lot of time teaching their students on speaking American (it's the little things, like the o in "sorry"). Newfies, Maritimers, people from the territories, and (obviously) French Quebecois usually have more distinctive accents, though how apparent the difference is will vary widely among both speakers and listeners.
  • Gillian Anderson, oddly enough. Though she was born in America, she moved to England when she was two and didn't move back until she was eleven, and by then her speech patterns had been set. She had to work to lose it when she went into acting, and if you pay attention to the early episodes of The X-Files it slips through at times. Now that she's moved back to England, she's got the accent back in full-force.
    • She still puts on an American accent when she's interviewed in the U.S.
  • Though not technically the same thing, it is funny how so many British singers who, when they speak, can barely be understood by an American audience, yet when they sing, it's clear as day.
    • Very much evident in the Pink Floyd song "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)" where the boy's choir sings with their normal British accents, while Pink Floyd sing with somewhat Americanized accents.
    • Shirley Manson of Garbage sings with an American accent, even though her normal speaking voice is Scottish-accented.
  • Emily Blunt seems to play this for at least half of her roles.
  • John Barrowman zig-zags this. He was born in Glasgow but moved to Illinois as a child and quickly adopted a broad Midwestern accent. He moved back to the UK after graduating high school but still speaks American in every acting role he does, and keeps it up in all interviews and public appearances. Apparently he only uses his original accent when around his parents.
  • Christian Bale, when playing an American character, will keep the accent during promotion and advertising. To hear his natural (and very prominent) Welsh accent can be quite jarring. The infamous recording where he chews out a stagehand that accidentally walked into a shot shows his native accent slipping through.
  • Stan Laurel was born in England.
  • Bob Hope was born in England. His father was English and his mother was Welsh. Listening to old footage of him performing, you'd never know he wasn't an all-American boy from Ohio. It should be noted that Hope's speech patterns were mainly set in Cleveland, as his family moved there just before his fifth birthday.
  • The late Richard Dawson of Family Feud and Match Game fame was born and raised in Englandnote  and only came over to the U.S. as a young actor sometime in the 1950s (when he was already in his twenties). Yet when he was a game show superstar in the 1970s and '80s, he sounded just like he was born and raised somewhere in Nebraska or Iowa.
  • Jerry Springer was born in London, though that was only because his parents were Eastern European refugees fleeing Nazi oppression (and most of their relatives ended up dying in the concentration camps). The Springer family moved to Queens, NY, when Springer was about four years old or so. Jerry's accent today is New York mixed with a dash of Ohio (where he served as Cincinnati's mayor).
  • Cary Grant, who was born in the UK and later took American citizenship. His British accent slowly dwindled over the course of his career, but he never quite sounded American. He almost always played one, however.
  • Malin Åkerman, who has portrayed many American roles, was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and raised in Ontario, Canada.
  • Cary Elwes usually does a Midwestern-ish accent when playing American characters, though he did a vaguely Southern sounding one in Twister. Helena Bonham-Carter, Nicholas Hoult, and Tim Roth have all done ambiguously American accents.
  • Pro Skater Bob Burnquist is from Brazil. To some, he seems to have lost his native accent.
  • Rapper Slick Rick is British.
    • Although he lived in the US for so long that he began to speak with a southern drawl.
  • According to Nicola Bryant, who played Peri Brown on Doctor Who, the show tried to cover up the fact that she was not actually American. She was instructed to use her American accent in interviews and public appearances. They eventually let her drop it.
  • Stephen Hawking. His voice synthesizer speaks in an American accent, as it was developed for him by an American company, but Hawking himself is a native of Oxford. He has said he would like to get it replaced with one that uses his natural accent, but the synthesizer has become so iconic that he's stuck with it.