There are plenty of TV dramas and shows about countries other than the UK and the US, but in many cases where they’re produced for English-speaking audiences, British accents seem to be the go-to option.
Bustle recently explored why this is the case, noting that recent shows such as The Great, which is set in Russia in the 1700s, and Chernobyl, which focuses on the nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union, chose to use British accents.
The news provider pointed out that there are many other examples of high-profile productions, both in film and TV, where British accents are the go-to option. They include Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Rome and the most recent adaptation of Les Miserables.
Eliza Simpson, dialect coach and actor, told the publication that one of the simplest reasons is often that it’s a British production. However, she noted that the use of British accents rather than getting actors to speak English in a foreign accent is very deliberate in most productions.
“When you’re building a world, all of these elements like dialect choice, cinematography, sound design, costume, production design – they’re all carefully considered pieces of a whole,” she explained, adding that “this all comes together to create a world that is consistent”.
In the case of Chernobyl, Craig Mazin, the show’s American creator, told The Chernobyl podcast that getting the cast to speak in British accents was a deliberate choice to help the audience to emotionally connect to the characters.
Bustle cited an interview with Mr Mazin in the Metro, in which he said: “We didn’t want to fall into the ‘Boris and Natasha’ cliched accent, because the Russian accent can turn comic very easily.”
Ms Simpson also told the website that another reason why British accents are often favoured in TV shows and movies is because they are familiar to American audiences.
Whatever accent a director decides they want their actors to use in a production, Ms Simpson stressed that it’s vital that it’s consistent across the board. “We don’t always know what we’re listening to, but… we know if it’s not consistent,” she said.
A lack of consistency can make the viewer or listener question what they’ve seen or heard in the story so far, and this can take them out of the moment and break the connections they develop with characters.
But it seems that not everyone finds it easy to understand different British accents. Earlier in May it was reported that non-UK audiences of Gangs of London were using subtitles to help them understand the strong Cockney accents in the programme.
The Sun also reported recently that some viewers of Normal People have been turning to subtitles to help them understand the Irish accents that feature in the hit BBC show.
According to the newspaper, more than 16 million people have already watched the series, which tells the story of an on-off romance and is set in Sligo and Dublin in Ireland. It has gained considerable attention due to the raunchy sex scenes it features.
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