Before They Were American -- They Were Australian

The announcement this week that Oprah would be taking her studio audience on a trip to Australia reminded me of the influence that country has on entertainment in the U.S. From the early years of American movies and even today, some of the biggest box office stars have been from the Land Down Under. Errol Flynn, Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Nicole Kidman are just a few of the names that come to mind. Also Rod Taylor, Naomi Watts, Eric Bana, Peter Finch.

Then I started thinking about some U.S. television series that feature Aussie actors in all-American roles. Some of them might surprise you. These talented stars have mastered the nuances of American accents so well, I was amazed to learn that they weren’t born and raised in this country.


Simon Baker -- The Mentalist
Rose ByrneDamages
Toni Collette – United States of Tara
Emilie de RavinRoswell and Lost
Portia de RossiArrested Development
Rachel Griffiths -- Six Feet Under and Brothers and Sisters
Julian McMahon -- Nip/Tuck
Alex O’LoughlinMoonlight and the new Hawaii Five-O

Next time, I’ll get into more of the influence of Australia and some of my favorite movies about the country, its history and culture, and its people. In the meantime, check out some of these actors and their series. And see if you can think of any others.

Update: As I was cataloging the season 2 of Fringe, something told me to check out the birthplace and credits of the star Anna Torv. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that she, too, is from Australia!


I can't believe I forgot Judy

I can't believe I forgot Judy Davis! A truly great actress with a varied and rather quirky resume -- she gained worldwide fame with one of the classics of the Australian New Wave, My Brilliant Career, then went on to play everyone from Georges Sand (in Impromptu) to Judy Garland to Nancy Reagan. My favorite Judy Davis movie, as well as one of my all-time favorite oddball Christmas movies, is The Ref, in which Davis and Kevin Spacey play a bickering couple taken hostage on Christmas Eve by a burglar (Denis Leary) who has absolutely no idea what he's just gotten himself into. It would make a great triple feature with The Lion in Winter and A Christmas Story. And yes, Judy does an American accent.

Judy Davis is wonderful!  I'd

Judy Davis is wonderful!  I'd forgotten about her in Impromptu.  But she was truly amazing in Life with Judy Garland.  I'm so glad you wrote to remind me of her.  Thanks!

I just love this topic!

I just love this topic! Australia and New Zealand certainly have been blessed with an abundance of talented people, and you've mentioned some of the greats -- namely Rachel Griffiths, Naomi Watts, and the incomparable Toni Collette -- but I'd be remiss if I didn't add Guy Pearce, Jack Thompson, and Anthony LaPaglia to the list. For a sample of the ubiquitous Mr. LaPaglia at work in his native Australia, do check out the Lantana, in which he plays a cop dealing with a missing persons case and a few secrets of his own. It's absolutely one of my favorite movies of the recent past.

You're so right.  When I

You're so right.  When I started making a list of Australia actors, I nearly filled up a page in my notebook. The country has certainly given us some of our best actors. Anthony LaPaglia is another one who surprised me with his American accent on Without a Trace. I'll definitely have to check out Lantana

And I've been amazed by performances of other New Zealand actors like Karl Urban, who was wonderful as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the new Star Trek movie, and Melanie Lynskey as Rose, Charlie's obsessed ex-girlfriend on Two and a Half Men. In both cases, I was shocked to learn they weren't American!

Thanks so much for writing!


I am always shocked to see my

I am always shocked to see my favorite actors speaking with their natural accents in an interview after hearing them with perfect American accents on my TV shows. Hugh Laurie's British accent no longer takes me by surprise (perhaps because I've watched so many of his British shows), but I'm still surprised when Alex O'Loughlin opens his mouth on talk shows.

Thanks for sharing this great list!

When it comes to Hugh

When it comes to Hugh Laurie, I was a fan of his from way back. So hearing him on House was a lovely surprise, not only for the American accent but the way he could do drama. I was used to his comedy work. Hmmm... Maybe a British edition of this topic is on the horizon.

But, yes, some actors still surprise me when they speak with their native accents, especially O'Loughlin and Rose Byrne. Amazing, talented people.

Thanks for writing!