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Limey Goes to Hollywood

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"Americans don't notice if I'm actually acting or not, as long as I do it with an English accent!"

A rather common thing for British actors and those of other nationalities to do: decide that they could be better served in their career by going to Los Angeles.

It's the most influential and pervasive film industry in the world. If you want to be not just a national but an international star you pretty much have to spend at least some time there. In addition, you can always come back to the U.K. and use the money from the States for British TV, indies, and theater.


The popularity of British actors is also due to the fact that they are a) cheaper, b) less likely to be doing films and c) less likely to be barred from gay roles by their agents. And then there's this final selling point for the Hollywood studios, probably the most important: They speak English!

Oddly, Brits and Europeans seem to have an above average chance of playing villains or jerks... See Fake American for when they put on the accent as well.




  • On Extras, Andy tells his agent he want to get on "cool shows- American shows". In the Christmas special, Andy's agent tells him he's had an offer for a movie (Andy perks up)... a British movie (Andy wilts).
  • In The TV Set Ioan Gruffudd plays Richard McCallister, a TV executive who moves from England to Los Angeles to take a job as second-in-command at a fictional TV network, which is headed by Lenny (Sigourney Weaver). Richard tries to counter-balance Lenny's fervent desire for high ratings by emphasizing the need for quality programming and preserving the writer's wishes. Richard's wife Chloe, played by Lucy Davis, hates Los Angeles and eventually leaves Richard to return to England.
  • The dream of the titular (Irish) character from Badly Drawn Roy is to go to Hollywood and try to make it big. He's eventually able to go because of donations from the community and he's shown doing odd jobs at the Walk of Fame. Whether or not he actually becomes famous is left up in the air.
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  • The premise of Episodes is that of a husband-and-wife team of British television writers finding themselves living this trope, with all its attendant pitfalls.
  • In Mostly Harmless, Tricia McMillan moves to New York since British accents being in demand on American television. (Ironically, in both the TV and movie adaptations [but not the original radio show] Tricia's played by an American actress as American.)

Real Life

Successful ones are listed below; in fact, thousands of non-American actors go over each pilot season hoping to make it big, to the point documentaries get made about it.

  • Michelle Ryan (Bionic Woman)
  • Jaime Murray (formerly of Hustle, she played Lila in Dexter)
  • Hugh Laurie
  • Writer Terry Nation, though he was more successful in England—he worked on shows in the US, but in the UK he created Blake's 7 and Survivors, and he put Doctor Who on the map.
    • A number of British writers have also done this, some (like Brian Clemens and Leigh Vance) more successfully than others (like Dennis Spooner).
  • Tim Roth did it so well there's people who forget he's English. Not in The Incredible Hulk, though!
    "He trained with the ROYAL MARINES!"
  • Christopher Eccleston did it after leaving Doctor Who,
  • Matthew Macfadyen did it after he left Spooks before giving up and came back to the UK.
    • David Oyelowo, also of Spooks, did it and actually succeeded, starring as Martin Luther King Jr. in the critical darling Selma.
  • Many Black Britons like Thandie Newton find themselves working in America given the lack of roles for non-white actors, especially on television where the majority of shows are period pieces or about the Royal Family - meaning they feature majority white casts.
  • Patrick Stewart
  • Two Older Than Television examples: Charlie Chaplin in the silent era and Boris Karloff in the early talkies.
  • More or less mandatory in Professional Wrestling, although going to Japan is a common variant.
  • Gordon Ramsay, of "Hell's Kitchen"
  • Liz Taylor, Roddy McDowall and other British child actors of the World War II era did this, overlapping with Blitz Evacuees. Taylor was born in the U.K. of U.S. parents.
  • Peter Sellers divided his time between American and English productions from the 1960s onwards; the English films were generally "smaller" than the American ones.
  • Clive Owen.
  • Cary Grant.
  • David Niven.
  • C. Aubrey Smith
  • Claude Rains
  • Gary Oldman
  • Gideon Emery, which he was teased for by the announcer at the MCM Expo in London during his Q&A panel.
  • Stephen Moyer of True Blood, although his accent is VERY convincing.
  • Anthony Hopkins, said he didn't fit in well in the theater world in England and lived in the States for a time in the Seventies, then moved back after his success after The Silence of the Lambs in 1990.
    • He has since moved back to the U.S. and become an American citizen.
  • The high income tax rates in the Britain forced Michael Caine to leave and move to Hollywood in the late Seventies. He moved back to the UK a decade later.
  • Appropriately enough considering the aforementioned Extras example, Ricky Gervais himself has been getting in some American movies, like Night at the Museum and a starring role in Ghost Town. He has made repeated references to this trope in real life, like appearing by satellite when Stephen Merchant won a Bafta to congratulate him — and to casually point out that he himself has won bigger awards, "...American ones."
  • A directing example is Christopher Nolan. He was born in London but spends a lot of his time in Chicago.
  • Alfred Hitchcock
  • Deborah Kerr made five films in her native UK before jumping ship to Hollywood in 1944. She stayed there for twenty years and didn't move back to the UK until she retired from movies.
  • Jane Seymour has taken to it so well that she's now an American citizen.
  • Tracey Ullman. She also became an American citizen.
  • Emily Blunt. She also became an American citizen.
  • It hasn't been lost on people that the three biggest American superheroes, for a while, were all played by Brits. The American-British Andrew Garfield is Spiderman, Henry Cavill is Superman, and Christian Bale used to be Batman. Sadly for Daily Mail readers, Israeli actress Gal Gadot thwarted hopes for a full house by being cast as Wonder Woman.
  • Musical examples:
    • David Bowie, but became disillusioned after only a few years and moved to West Berlin straight after.
    • Albert Hammond, who sung of a less-than idealised experience in "It Never Rains in Southern California".
    • Tom Jones
    • Rod Stewart
    • Keith Moon
    • Jeff Lynne
    • Sex Pistols members John Lydon and Steve Jones.
    • S Club 7 with the result that they were pushed more as ballad singers than they had been in their native UK. In America their signature songs were the likes of "Two In A Million" and "Never Had A Dream Come True". In the UK it was the more up-tempo "S Club Party", "Bring It All Back" and "Reach".
    • Atomic Kitten tried, their covers of "The Tide Is High" and "Eternal Flame" getting attached to a few movie soundtracks. It didn't take and they remained in the UK for the rest of their time.
    • Fleetwood Mac
  • Video gaming example: Jeff Minter lived in Los Angeles for some years.
  • Alex Kingston, who played a starring role on ER and guest starred on Private Practice. Confirmed to appear in Arrow with fellow former Doctor Who star John Barrowman (who is a dual national). She now divides her time between the UK and US.
  • Inverted by Terry Gilliam. Gilliam is an American who moved to England and became a British citizen.
  • The Defenders (2017): The two Brits amongst the four leads (Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, and Finn Jones as Danny Rand) have now made New York City their home.