Wednesday, 28 April 2010

British actors and American screens

My wife found on BBC News an interesting article about British actors making it big on US TV. It is something I have noticed before, as most of my favourite TV dramas recently discovered (say The Wire or Rome) are produced by US money and US scriptwriters, but the casts are often heavy on British actors. The article mentions many reasons for this: British actors are competent but cheap, they can easily pass as American, they are also unknown in the American market, which is an asset when one wants viewers to see the character and not the actor, the US have of course more money, a bigger market, etc.

All of this is true, but there is also another element that is not mentioned in this article, but which Dominic West hinted at in another interview: US dramas are sadly now more creative than British ones, or at least they encourage more creativity. I deeply love a number of British dramas, but they go from fairly old to very old. The last British TV drama that I genuinly loved to bits was Sorted (I mentioned it here and you can find here its imdb page), which got stupidly axed by the BBC after its first season. The worst thing is that Americans have probably in proportions just as many poor and unimaginative shows as here, but they do get it right more often and there are people ready to back up good projects. Of course, they have the money to do it, but surely a good drama is no more expensive than a bad one. What I am worried about is that now that it has absorbed many British talents, and not only for the roles of badguys, one day they might also take British writers. It would be more difficult of course, as there is a cultural gap that cannot be filled as easily when writing about a different nation, but I can see a slippery slope. In any case, it is frustrating that British actors triumph in The Wire, while nothing of this caliber and of this particular genre has been made here in recent television history.

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