It's insane how flawlessly some actors can pull off a foreign accent. Hugh Laurie, aka Gregory House, practically fooled fans into thinking that he was an American and Idris Elba stunned us all with his thick British accent, even though he spoke like a Baltimore native on The Wire. These actors (and several others) have made it look so easy, which is probably why most casting directors are less concerned about finding people with authentic accents. However, we've heard enough cringe-worthy impressions to know that not all actors can get away with doing a perfect, seemingly authentic imitation.
You're probably thinking that a flawed accent is no big deal. Because obviously, an experienced A-list actor is technically more "qualified" for a foreign role than an actual native who isn't as well-known. But have you ever stopped to think about how native viewers feel when they hear ridiculous accents that sound nothing like their own? Or about all the talented foreigners who would've jumped at the opportunity to represent themselves and the countries they hail from?
Yes, Bushmaster was a powerful and complex villain, but his attempt at a Jamaican accent was beyond awful. To make matters even worse, nearly half of the newer characters that claimed to be Jamaican in season two sounded more like cheap knockoffs. When fans raised this concern to showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker on social media, he said: "I’d rather risk people being angry than not do it at all. Because people are now [Googling] The Maroons and Nanny and Marcus Garvey as we speak... sometimes perfection is the enemy of the good." Okay, dismissive.
Still, writers Andray Domise and Sharine Taylor raised an important point about the importance of casting authentic characters. They wrote: "When anyone produces cinematic work involving communities outside of their own, authentic representation of those people and their cultures is a creative responsibility. Whatever 'obstacles' that come with said responsibility are no less essential than getting lighting and costumes correct. For the producers of Luke Cage to complain that criticism of the show is unfair because, 'Hey, at least we tried,' is to throw away that responsibility and embrace laziness."
If you've ever wondered why Pablo has such a heavy Portuguese accent on the series, it might be because he's actually a Brazilian actor who had to learn a whole new language in the span of a few months. Initially, Wagner was told that his character would speak English with a Colombian accent (which he figured would be a piece of cake). But then, when Netflix switched gears and decided to have him speak in Spanish, he actually flew to Colombia to learn the language and enrolled in a university to take a course on it.
Understandably, he did what he could to perfectly embody his role, but several Reddit threads and tweets will tell you that real Spanish speakers are not impressed with his accent. It's apparently so bad that it caused some people to stop watching the show.
Fans would agree that Judith's character, Elena Cardenas, was the sweetest lady with a strong and determined spirit. However, the Guatemalan character's accent wasn't that convincing. Or at least, not to those who are familiar with Spanish accents. A few fans have pointed out that it sounded a bit "off" and one native Guatemalan mentioned on Reddit that she actually made an error. She said: "I was annoyed a bit by Mrs. Cardenas. Her accent sounded to me like from somewhere in the Caribbean. Also once I heard her using the wrong pronoun. She said 'lo' instead of 'le,' or something like that, I don't remember exactly what it was. That kind of mistake that is extremely rare on a native speaker."
To be fair, it's really hard to nail the Boston accent and Amanda made a good effort as the snarky "Badison" Murphy. But quite a few Bostonians who watch the show couldn't even recognize which accent she was doing! Yes, we can at least give her some credit for imitating the most noticeable part of Boston accents, which includes the dropping of the "R" sound after vowels. But still, there's a lot more to it than saying "park" like "pahk." The actress comes from California, which might explain why the accent sounded so unnatural.
Speaking of awful Boston accents, if there were an award for the worst imitation ever, then it would probably go to Julianne Moore for her portrayal of Nancy Donovan on 30 Rock. It's intriguing because the actress actually spent time in Boston to study theater and she even worked there. She said: "I worked in a bar called the Up and Up Lounge in Kenmore Square on top of a Howard Johnson’s and that’s how I learned to talk like that. Everyone was from Dorchester or Somerville."
Unfortunately, what she managed to pick up wasn't even close to the real thing - and the fact that her own co-stars poked fun at her accent is pretty telling.
He definitely looks intimidating enough to portray criminal mastermind Daryl Crowe, but any fan will tell you that his ridiculous, fake Southern drawl was impossible to take seriously. Writer Matt Barone explained: "There's no subtlety to Rapaport's countrified jargon. The first syllable of 'business,' one of Daryl's favorite words, gets stretched into 'biz' with at least three Z's. 'Idea' becomes 'idear.' 'Dead' into 'deed.' 'Him' is now 'hee-yim.'" And guys, those are just a few examples of many. His accent is so awful that it has ruined some of the most intense scenes.
The Scottish actor has been open about how much he loves to take on new accents for his roles. And many Doctor Who fans agree that he did an awesome job when he pretended to be British. However, the same doesn't ring true when it comes to his role as Detective Emmett Carver on Gracepoint. Emmett is supposed to be from Northern California, but he clearly comes off as a foreigner who's trying (and failing) to mask his true accent. There are times when he does a semi-decent job and then in other scenes, his accent seems to have a weird mix of Kentucky and Scottish. Some fans have also pointed out that in the more serious scenes, his dialect sounds like a poor imitation of Batman. Yikes...
On the series, Greg played a Geordie named Alistair Gascoyne from the city of Newcastle. They're known for their distinct accents, but apparently, Greg butchered it so badly that he faced tons of criticism and backlash for it. In fact, his words were so inarticulate that even the other characters on the show acknowledged it. Under a YouTube clip of his scenes, one commenter said that it sounded like "an Irishman using Geordie dialect" and another YouTuber, who actually comes from Newcastle, said: "I'm just as confused as they are at what he's trying to say." The series brought in a translator, who explained that it was apparently common for Goeorgies to sound super confusing. But literally every actual Georgie would beg to differ.
Well, we can totally see why the writers had Angel's Irish accent mysteriously disappear over time. In flashback scenes from the series, it was alwyas a treat to see the dashing Angel in Victorian clothing and with longer hair. But when he opened his mouth the speak, it wasn't nearly as pleasant. We suspect that he didn't bother to get a dialect coach because his Irish accent was so terrible that it made us cringe. For instance, it was often challenging for him to stick with the Irish accent for an entire line because he'd sometimes return to speaking like an American. Thankfully, though, there weren't that many flashbacks, so we didn't have to endure too much of this.
Angel wasn't the only Buffy character that gave us a cringe-worthy accent. There was also the Jamaican slayer Kendra Young, who stood out as one of the more memorable characters. Although she did have a lot of potential, her accent was really off-putting. In fact, the actress, Bianca, once admitted that it was a last-minute decision and she wasn't too thrilled it. She said: "I really hated that accent! I got the part, and I didn't originally have an accent. Then, literally the night before, they said, 'What about a Jamaican accent?' So it's one of those things where, y'know, I just had to put it on tape, but I didn't have a chance to get comfortable with it." This definitely explains her weird pronunciations, such as the tendency to drop the "R" sound at the end of words.
Russell Montego's constant back and forth with Khadijah was definitely among the more memorable scenes on Living Single. And who could forget how he tried to charm almost every woman he laid eyes on? However, as much as we enjoyed watching his character, it was absolute torture to hear him talk. Russell was a proud Jamaican immigrant, but his accent was so phony and overly-exaggerated that we've been tempted to reach for earplugs on a few occasions. Like, is it really so hard to find a talented Jamaican actor with an authentic accent?
The English actress played Daphne Moon, an immigrant from Manchester, England who got hired as a housekeeper. However, her accent was so exaggerated and weird that it sounded almost cartoonish. No one who was actually born and raised in Manchester sounds like how she did on the series, so we can understand why quite a few of them were frustrated about it. The show's writers could've made things so much simpler by having just Jane's character come from London (aka where's Jane is really from).
Robbie, who was born and raised in Scotland, played Daphne's sibling Michael Moon. But for some odd reason, he did an even weirder accent that sounded completely different from Daphne's. His accent was a mix of Brummie and Scottish, but it was messy and spoken so quickly that it was nearly incomprehensible. On the show, though, it was mentioned that his weird speech resulted from being dropped as a baby. We guess we'll let this one slide...
Scott's character, Dwayne Pride, is supposed to be from Jefferson Parish, but according to dialect coach Patricia Fletcher, there wasn't a single trace of it in his accent. She said: "Though admittedly there are hundreds of New Orleans dialects, I did not detect the presence of any Jefferson Parish 'natives' among the stars of NCIS. Scott Bakula does not seem to be adjusting his speech for this role. One could certainly justify being stationed in New Orleans and not having a specific New Orleans sound, as this is a Naval Criminal Investigative Service — employing agents who have served and traveled the world. But apparently, the character description states that Pride was born and raised in Jefferson Parish." Hmmm...
Way before he gained recognition for films like The Social Network and The Amazing Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield appeared on two episodes of Doctor Who as a guy from Tennessee named Frank. As he helped the Doctor try to defeat the Daleks during the Great Depression era in New York, his speech took on a Southern twang that felt far from authentic - especially since a bit of his normal accent slipped out. If only it were half as good as his American accent in the Spider-Man films, perhaps he wouldn't have come off as a watered-down version of a Tennessean.
Ruthie is a Tony Award winner, but her accent on episodes of The Americans is far from stellar. Ruthie played Young Hee Seong, a Korean immigrant who moved to the U.S. with her family during the Cold War. And although Ruthie did have an accent when she originally moved to the States from Korea, she lost it and had to re-learn it for the part. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like that worked too well because many viewers were super distracted by the scenes Young appeared in.
Well, it's not the absolute worst English impression that we've heard. Some fans have actually praised him for sounding authentic while others found his attempt really annoying. Others have also mentioned that his character, Tom, could pass for someone who moved to the UK and slowly picked up the accent. But anyone who's actually familiar with British accents can tell that something about it is off. As writer Sam Wollaston put it in his review of the show, it's "technically sound but synthetic, rather than living-breathing real."