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How's Your British Accent?

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Jaime: What's this?
Jonas: Student ID. You're going to college. You're transferring in from England. How's your British accent?
Bionic Woman, "The Education of Jaime Sommers"

A British actor, living in America, is playing an American character on an American TV show. For this role, they learn to speak with an American accent, with varying degrees of success. Then, one episode, they are required to go undercover as a Brit and, would you believe it, they can do a perfect British accent.

This trope comes when a character has to assume an accent which for the character is fake, but for the actor is in fact their natural speaking voice, or at least their native regional accent. This can refer to any accent, British is just a common example.

Happens surprisingly often, either played straight or for laughs.

Almost the opposite of Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping, which is a slip from an assumed accent into a native one that is not deliberate. Compare Filming Location Cameo, which pulls a similar trick with a show's setting.


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    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The A-Team, South African actor Sharlto Copley plays Capt. H. M. "Howling Mad" Murdock, a character known more for his bouts of insanity but also an aptitude for putting on accents and speaking foreign languages. In one scene, he shows off his "chops" by pretending to be a cameraman for a South African news team with a pitch-perfect accent. In another, he and B.A. Baracus inadvertently switch passports at the airport, forcing Murdock to pretend to speak Swahili, which Copley does in real life. After the ploy works, Murdock turns to his amazed comrades, with Face musing, “You speak Swahili?” Murdock flatly responds, “You don’t?”
  • In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the second film features an undercover hotel inspector who turns out to be an American faking an English accent. The character is played by British actor Tamsin Greig.
  • The film City Island features an aspiring actress who does this as part of an identity makeover. Like in the 30 Rock example further down, she is played by Emily Mortimer.
  • Free Guy: When Millie is playing in the "Free City" online game, her avatar speaks with a British accent, which people ask her about; later it's revealed that she's an American and was using an "accent filter" in the game. Actress Jodie Comer is British.
  • In America has Johnny, who is Irish, auditioning for a play. He's asked to do a London accent, which he demonstrates. His actor Paddy Considine is English and goes back into his real accent for those brief couple of lines.
  • In The Island, Lincoln Six Echo is a clone of a Scottish man named Tom Lincoln. All clones are brought up speaking with an American accent to avoid confusion. So when Lincoln Six Echo first encounters Tom Lincoln, he's surprised by the other's strange accent. Later on, he "fakes" the accent to trick a mercenary hunting him and makes sure to insert "shite" into a sentence. Ewan McGregor, the actor playing the Lincolns, is Scottish.
  • In Lazer Team, Woody, a Southern redneck, begins speaking with a British accent after using an intelligence-granting helmet, which is noted to be because of his belief in the Smart People Speak the Queen's English trope rather than an actual side effect of the device. Woody's actor, Gavin Free, is actually British.
  • Little Women (2019) has Emma Watson putting on an American accent to play Meg. A flashback to the March sisters doing a play has Meg with an English accent, and Emma uses a slightly more exaggerated version of her real voice.
  • The Merry Widow involves Capt. Danilo, from the tiny, Eastern European, Ruritania-style country of "Marshovia" being sent to Paris to romance the eponymous widow (It Makes Sense in Context). The king says "How's your French?", and Danilo rattles off some French dialogue. Actor Maurice Chevalier, of course, was French.
  • In the 1998 version of The Parent Trap, one of Lindsey Lohan's twin characters is British-raised, and so must "fake" Lohan's American accent when they secretly switch places. And then the American twin must fake the English accent.
  • An in-universe variation in Rock Star: Steel Dragon's guitarist Kirk (played by Englishman Dominic West) calls Chris to invite him to audition to be the band's new lead singer, but Chris thinks it's his own band's guitarist pranking him and says "your English accent is even worse than your guitar playing" and hangs up. Kirk calls him again and says "there's not much I can do about the accent, but what do you suggest I do about the guitar playing?"
  • In his memoir The Disaster Artist, Greg Sestero describes auditioning for the role of a young Andre Toulon in Retro Puppet Master, a prequel to the original Puppet Master. The character is supposed to be French, but the audition only called for a fake British accent, as the casting directors had presumably thought that a British accent would be easier for most American actors to fake, counting on The Queen's Latin for suspension of disbelief. Sestero, who holds dual citizenship between the United States and France, asked instead to try the audition with a French accent. Naturally, he knocked it out of the park and got the role.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In early 2007, Emily Mortimer had a recurring role on 30 Rock which she played with her native British accent. However, it was later revealed that her character was actually an American posing as a Brit. (Mortimer only did one line with an American accent and that was for The Reveal.)
  • In one episode of Alias, the internationally ambiguous Julian Sark pretends to be American. Julian Sark is Russian-born but educated in Britain and spends a lot of time in Ireland. As a result, his character has an Irish-influenced British accent despite being neither Irish nor British. He's played by the American actor David Anders and the American accent the character faked was the actor's native accent.
  • Angel:
    • One episode's gag involves Cordelia and Wesley doing an impression of Buffy and Angel. Wesley is British, played by American actor Alexis Denisof (doing a flawless accent for the record), and he puts on an American accent to imitate Angel.
    • Amy Acker uses her natural Texan accent to play Fred, and adopts a different accent to play Illyria. When Illyria is pretending to be Fred, she must 'fake' her own accent.
  • In the Bionic Woman episode "The Education of Jaime Sommers", American Jaime (played by English actress Michelle Ryan) has to pretend to be English. And pulled it off flawlessly. This despite the fact that Jamie Sommers (the character) was 1) not an actress and 2) not trained in espionage (à la Sydney Bristow in Alias), and therefore shouldn't have had any training in the proper British Accent.
  • In Blindspot, Roman learns an Australian accent extremely quickly.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Spike - a British vampire played by an American actor - adopts (rather unconvincingly) an American accent. (He apparently asked his British co-star Anthony Stewart Head how he would fake the accent. He was told to "Go crazy on the R's".)
    • Also done to an extent with Giles. Anthony Stuart Head and Giles are both British, but the accent Head used to play Giles was considerably more posh than his natural one. There are a few occasions where Head got to use his natural accent, most notably in the episode "Band Candy", where all of the adults in town revert to the minds of teenagers, and Giles goes back to rebellious teenage self.
  • Burn Notice:
    • Irish Fiona, played by English actress Gabrielle Anwar with what sounds like a faint "mid-Atlantic accent" (which itself is an artificial blend of British and American accents), reverts to her natural English accent to play a good-time girl.
    • Also, a variant: in one episode, Michael, played by actually-from-Boston (well, Amesbury, but that's close enough) Jeffrey Donovan, has to pretend to be from Boston...and he talks like someone from Miami faking a Boston accent.
    • A hilarious lampshading in the same show: When Fiona's brother thinks Michael is a fellow Irishman, Michael has to go "undercover" as an American arms dealer. The brother is unconvinced Michael can pull it off, calling his American accent "a little dodgy." This gets even better because if you listen closely to Michael speaking "undercover", Michael nearly slips into an Irish accent.
  • One of the recurring characters on later seasons of Cheers is French Jerk Henri, who was always trying to steal Kelly away from Woody. Henri was played by American actor Anthony Cistaro. In one episode, Henri hits on a girl, who tells him she doesn't like French guys. Cue Henri, in an American accent, telling the girl that he's really from Portland.
  • In a season 9 episode of Chicago Fire, Matt is staying at Sylvie's place for protection after a scare of sorts. They're playing heads-up with the accents category, with Sylvie guessing the accent. Matt keeps skipping accents until the game prompts "Australian", allowing Jesse Spencer to use a version of his natural accent. In-Universe, Sylvie finds it hilariously awful, even though she correctly guessed it.
  • In an episode of Chuck Sarah has to pretend to be an Australian scientist, allowing Yvonne Strahovski to use her normal accent.
  • In Season 2 of Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan, as English Penelope, uses her natural Irish accent to pass as Lady Whistledown's maid.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Daleks' Master Plan", Steven fakes Peter Purves's real Northern accent to sneak into a police station. Especially amusing is when the Doctor asks him why he's talking in that "ridiculous voice".
    • In "Tooth and Claw", the Doctor — played by the Scottish David Tennant with an Estuary English accent — "fakes" a Scottish accent to fool Queen Victoria. So Tennant, a Scotsman, is faking a different Scottish accent from his own, in a series where he speaks in an English accent as a character from another planet. Made funnier by the Doctor's tendency to forget his Scottish accent—until the Queen calls him out on it.
    • Similarly, in the spinoff Torchwood, Jack Harkness — played by John Barrowman with an American accent — "fakes" his actor's natural Scottish accent at one point.note 
    • Madame Vastra is played by the Scottish Neve McIntosh. She usually plays the character with a slight Scottish lilt anyway, but at one point in "Deep Breath", she uses her full accent in a scene where Vastra is trying to communicate with the confused, regeneration-sick Twelfth Doctor, who is under the impression everyone with an English accent has "developed a fault".
    • Missy, played by Glaswegian actress Michelle Gomez, generally has an English accent but intentionally veers into Gomez's own accent on occasion. It's implied the English accent is the "real" one and she puts on the Scots to mock the Twelfth Doctor's accent.
  • Dollhouse:
    • In one episode, Sierra gets imprinted with the personality of an Australian fan, allowing Dichen Lachman to use the Australian accent she grew up with.
    • Additionally, in season 2, it turns out before Sierra became an Active, she was Australian, and has Lachman's accent when playing "herself".
  • Vicki Fowler arrives in EastEnders with an American twang, having been brought up in Florida by her British mother. The accent wasn't very convincing and after a few months, the actress reverted to her native London speech pattern. This was handwaved as a deliberate effort by Vicki to fit in.
  • Chuck on Gossip Girl is played by English Ed Westwick. Chuck is obsessed with Blair, who brings back a guy from her summer vacation in Europe who turns out to be a fake-American, his true nationality being British (though the actor is American). So Chuck, being Chuck, fakes an English accent to pull a Bed Trick on Blair... and we have an English actor playing an American character who fakes an English accent as done rather poorly by an American actor.
  • In the House episode "The Socratic Method", Dr. House, played by the British Hugh Laurie, fakes an English accent to account for the anti-social hour he is calling a doctor to get further medical history for a patient. As a bonus for longtime fans, Laurie uses not his native speaking voice but instead the exact ludicrous upper-class RP accent used for his previous Upper-Class Twit roles in Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster. Though he does leave in one rhotic "r".
  • iZombie:
    • The show uses a visual version rather than an accent-related one in a couple of episodes. In season 2's "He Blinded Me... With Science", in order to enter the Max Rager headquarters incognito, Liv has to disguise herself as a "normal" human with a wig and makeup to cover up her zombism... which is basically an excuse for her actress, Rose McIver, to appear without her character's zombie makeup. Season 3's "Eat a Knievel", meanwhile, has her do it so she and Ravi can infiltrate a meeting of "zombie truther" conspiracy theorists.
    • Season 4 gave a straight example as one episode has a made-up Liv posing as a lost party girl from New Zealand, allowing Auckland-born McIver to finally use her real voice on the show.
  • In an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Serena goes undercover as a British girl attempting to enter the New York "escort" scene. Saffron Burrows, the actress playing Serena, is from London but plays an NYPD detective.
  • Legends of Tomorrow has Amaya aka Vixen, who was born in Africa but spent so much time in America that she has an accent to match. She's played by Maisie Richardson-Sellers, who's British but uses an American accent for the role. In season three, the team is infiltrating a gang of pirates in the 1700s and Amaya poses as a pirate queen which has her taking on a "British" accent to fit the part.
    • In season 4, the team runs into Charlie, a shape-shifter acting as a punk rocker in 1977 who briefly takes on Amaya's appearance. Constantine casts a spell that "locks" Charlie into this form as she's taken on the ship. Thus, Richardson-Sellers now plays Charlie looking like Amaya with a punk accent.
  • Legion: David Haller is played by English actor Dan Stevens (you might recognize him for his previous role on Downton Abbey), but his accent in the show is some variant of "American." Until "Chapter 7", that is, where his rational mind manifests to him as... him, but with a classy English accent! Bonus points for David putting on an exaggerated version of the accent while talking to his his rational mind and saying a line he imagined his biological father would say, which is something of a call-forward to the reveal that his father is Charles Xavier, an Englishman.
  • Irish actor Jason O'Mara got to use his native accent when an episode of the American adaptation of Life on Mars had his character, American detective Sam Tyler, go undercover as an Irishman. In America!
  • Malcolm in the Middle: Stevie is portrayed with a Speech Impediment that causes him to speak in slow...drawn out...sentences. In the episode "Kitty's Back", when Stevie edits his prerecorded speech to sound faster, it's naturally just Stevie's actor talking at normal speed.
  • A few episodes of Nip/Tuck feature a British actor playing an American pretending to be British because he thought American women found it sexy. His "fake" British accent is, of course, flawless, but his American accent? Not so much.
  • NYPD Blue zig-zags with Naomi, a PAA who appears in a few episodes. Played by Australian Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, she usually speaks with a thick Southern U.S. accent but when flustered slips into an Australian one. The character is from Australia and in the U.S. illegally so she fakes the accent. Averted in a brief one-off return in which she's come clean and living openly as a legal Australian immigrant.
  • On The O.C., Marissa (Played by Mischa Barton who was born in London but moved to America as a child) pretends to be a British exchange student to seduce one of Kaitlin's classmates. Humorously, the classmate doesn't buy it, so she just pretends to be a stripper.
  • Orphan Black:
    • Canadian Tatiana Maslany plays several different clones who hail from different nations, including Canada (thus allowing Maslany to use her actual accent). This trope is more directly used when Sarah, the British clone, initially takes over the life of the Toronto cop Beth and has to fake a Canadian accent. When clone Allison poses as Sarah, she goes a tad overboard with her own British accent attempt. And let's not get started on Russian-born Helena's attempts to mimic another clone...
    • Sarah's foster brother, Felix, is said to be British like Sarah. He's played by Canadian actor Jordan Gavaris and one episode has Felix affecting an "American" accent as part of a scheme.
  • Spoofed on Psych. Shawn tries to convince a hotel clerk that he's with Interpol by affecting a British accent and then pretending that his natural American accent is faked as part of his cover.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: In "The Hostile Hospital," Klaus, who is played by the British Louis Hynes, fakes a British accent when disguised as Dr. Faustus. Rather than using his natural voice, Hynes deliberately uses an unconvincing accent to really sound like an American pretending to be British.
  • In Shadow and Bone, Danielle Galligan puts on an estuary English accent to play Nina and then slips into her native Irish accent when Nina pretends to be Kaelish (fantasy Irish).
  • In an episode of Six Feet Under, Nate Fisher imagines his girlfriend as an Australian. Rachel Griffiths, who played the girlfriend, is actually Australian.
  • On True Blood, Englishman Stephen Moyer plays American vampire Bill Compton and famously struggles to mimic a Louisiana Cajun accent. It must have been a relief when a flashback sequence showed Bill in an English punk rock bar, and Moyer got to speak with his natural voice.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Dong has a thick Vietnamese accent, but briefly drops it to put on a native New York City accent to imitate a government agent. Actor Ki Hong Lee is putting a New York twist on his natural American accent.
  • One episode of White Collar requires the American Diana (played by Manchester-native Marsha Thompson) to affect a Manchester accent.
  • In The Wire, Sheffield-born Dominic West plays American police detective Jimmy McNulty, who pretends to be a British businessman to go undercover (so to speak) in a brothel. This is the result.
    Jimmy McNulty: Cwoikey! I was lookin' to get a little hanky-panky [Kima and Lester giggle], and this one bloke gave me this number to cawl when I got acwoss the pond."
  • Wynonna Earp: In the premiere of season two, Waverly goes undercover, pretending to be a British agent. While both Waverly and actress Dominique Provost-Chalkley are Canadian, Provost-Chalkley is half British and grew up in Bristol, with the accent to match. Naturally, Nicole makes a crack on how "that's the worst British accent I've ever heard."

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • In the sixth season episode "Joust Like a Woman" from King of the Hill, Alan Rickman guest stars as the owner of a Renaissance fair, and spends most of the episode speaking in his natural British accent. In the end, when he's defeated and some coworkers launch a lawsuit, the character slips back into his natural voice... which is a terrible attempt from Rickman at a Texan accent. Luckily it's just for the first sentence and he just does a straight American accent for the rest.