Northerners are a rare breed in Los Angeles (and the rest of the US I would imagine). Most Americans I have met think my accent is great and launch into a Beatles impersonation – they certainly don’t ask if I know the Queen. For a long time the world has only been familiar with two UK accents, an RP (posh) accent such as the Queen’s and a cockney accent like Michael Caine’s.
With the popularity of Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey, it seems our vast array of accents in the UK are finally becoming better known. The other day I was surprised to hear a strong Yorkshire accent on an old episode of CW’s The Originals. After a quick google search, it seemed most of the viewers were utterly confused by the accent, and the character was killed off shortly thereafter.
However, some Northerners have made it through! Sean Bean is perhaps the most famous and was well known here even before Game of Thrones became what seems like the most watched** TV show EVER. Anna Friel was an early pioneer, going from Brookside to Pushing Daisies with some fun roles in-between where she was able to keep her Northern tones and not a)become posh or b)become American. Which seem to be the only two options sometimes. And its not just in the US, actor friends who have moved to Australia have said the same thing. If you don’t sound like Bridget Jones (oh the irony) then it’s just not ‘British’. And I have major appreciation for Jane Leeves (Daphne in Frasier) for being the only comparison to a Northern accent on a major US TV show for a looooong time.
A little known wonderful fact – Sir Ian McKellen was actually raised in my home town of Wigan. That’s right, Gandalf/Magneto is a little brit northern! (And Patrick Stewart aka Professor X is Northern too! No mutant jokes please). Sir Ian McKellen has never forgotten his roots and frequently heads home to the towns he grew up in and talks to school kids about tolerance and what they can achieve. In a few weeks he will get his star on Wigan’s very own ‘Walk of Fame’ too! (http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-manchester-32085218) Sigh, I can only dream.
Since moving to the US I’ve been through several stages of battling the accent scenario. Sometimes I’ll be posh but feel like a complete fraud, sometimes I’ll just pretend to be American for an easier life, and sometimes I just let it all out. Some people don’t have a problem understanding me. Some people reeeeally struggle. A few weeks ago I shot a pilot in my own accent and while talking to the producer during a production meeting, I could suddenly sense that he was only understanding about half of what I was saying. Prompting me to now worry that I’ll be subtitled if and when the show actually airs. On the other hand, my accent has become so Americanized now that when I go home to Wigan, my nan tells me to ‘speak British’ and frequently bollocks me for sounding like an American. I just can’t win.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I just need to embrace it and forge ahead like my fellow Starks (avoiding weddings of course). And, thanks to Hulu showing Coronation Street and Hollyoaks, I no longer have to call or skype people just to hear a brit of northern now and then. Thanks Hulu!
Please enjoy the below video ‘I’m from Wigan, Me!’ showcasing my hometown!